Report: 230,000 displaced by Mexico's drug war

AP News
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Posted: Mar 26, 2011 1:16 AM
Report: 230,000 displaced by Mexico's drug war

About 230,000 people have been displaced in Mexico because of drug violence, and about half of them may have taken refuge in the United States, according to a new study.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre based this week's report on studies by local researchers, saying that the Mexican government does not compile figures on people who have had to leave their homes because of turf battles between drug gangs.

"Independent surveys put their number at around 230,000," according to the global report's section on Mexico. "An estimated half of those displaced crossed the border into the United States, which would leave about 115,000 people internally displaced, most likely in the States of Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila and Veracruz."

While that number is far below the estimated 3.6 to 5.2 million displaced by decades of drug- and guerrilla-war violence in Colombia, the report suggested that people who had to flee drug violence in Mexico have received little support.

"In Mexico, state and federal authorities did not acknowledge or start to respond to the internal displacement caused by drug cartels," the Geneva-based organization said.

Mexico's Interior Department said it had no immediate comment on the report.

However, government census figures released this month support the idea of an exodus, at least in some areas.

The census, carried out in mid-2010, listed as uninhabited 61 percent of the 3,616 homes in Praxedis G. Guerrero, a border township in the Rio Grande Valley east of Ciudad Juarez. The area has suffered turf battles between the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, and people in the town said gunmen have them to leave.

A striking 111,103 of the 488,785 homes in violence-wracked Ciudad Juarez were abandoned, or about 23 percent, and almost one-third of the 160,171 houses in Reynosa were unoccupied. The figure for Mexico as a whole was 14 percent, and many of those, especially in southern states, may belong to migrants who went to the United States seeking work.

Part of the exodus, the IDMC report noted, was because of the indiscriminate nature of the drug violence, which has killed more than 35,000 people since President Felipe Calderon ramped up an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.

Police in the northern city of Monterrey reported Friday that a local television host on a children's variety program was kidnapped and killed by gunmen and his body left on a roadside.

A cousin of host Jose Luis Cerda and a cameraman on his show also were also kidnapped late Thursday and were killed.

Cerda used the stage moniker "The Cat" on the children's program known as "The Club." Police officials said the motives were still under investigation.

Cerda's blindfolded, bound body was found in a vacant lot, then stolen by gunmen as police were cordoning off the area. A spokesman for the state government who was not authorized to give his name said Cerda's body turned up for a second time later Friday beside a main road in the city center and was secured by authorities.

Nuevo Leon public security office says five Guadalupe police officers have been detained and will be investigated for failing to provide adequate security after the initial finding of La Gata's body.

In the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, five dismembered bodies, four of them police officers who were abducted hours earlier, were found just a few blocks from where President Felipe Calderon and Guerrero State Governor Zeferino Torreblanca inaugurated the city's annual Tourism Fair for international tour operators and industry officials.

Calderon has declared 2011 the Year of Tourism as Acapulco is facing record levels of violence from warring cartels, including an attack on a bar that killed 10 last weekend and 27 people killed in one day in January.

Hundreds of soldiers and police stood guard outside the convention center on the main tourism thoroughfare.

The bodies Friday were found inside an abandoned SUV with banners whose contents weren't revealed. Drug gangs often leave messages with their victims.

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Associated Press Writers Sergio Flores in Acapulco, Mexico, and Mark Walsh in Monterrey, Mexico, contributed to this report.