Organized crime is expanding its tentacles throughout Latin America, and wherever it arrives people flee. In El Salvador, street gangs force people from their homes. In Colombia, a place already saturated with millions of internally displaced, drug traffickers and guerrillas are pushing thousands more to flee. In Guatemala, an odd combination of drug traffickers and agro-industrial projects are forcing people from their settlements. And in Mexico, drug cartels, rising crime rates and increasing kidnapping have led many to make the difficult decision to simply stop their lives and leave. Under the coordination of InSight Crime, an alliance of online media outlets -- Animal Politico of Mexico, Verdad Abierta of Colombia, El Faro of El Salvador and Plaza Publica of Guatemala – investigated this new face of displacement in the region. These stories are the first round of a two part special on human rights and organized crime.The InSight section on The New Face of Forced Displacement in Latin America provides additional details on each report.
In Colombia, where about four million people have been displaced in the past 25 years by actors in the armed conflict in that country, VerdadAbierta.com explored new forms of displacement in the border province of Norte de Santander, where every day peasants join the ranks of the dispossessed, escaping threats, extortion by narco-paramilitary groups and guerrillas, and the fighting between these groups and the security forces.
In El Salvador, El Faro investigated the silent and almost invisible displacement of residents of neighborhoods under the control of street gangs that threaten to recruit young people and that foster a climate of generalized violence. El Faro describes how the houses abandoned by those who fled give testimony of the lives of their former occupants.
And while IDMC mentions displacement in Guatemala as a result of that country's civil war, which ended in 1996, Plaza Publica found that in the department of Peten -- the largest in the country -- violent criminal organizations, such as the Zetas, are causing a new displacement of residents and palm oil companies are taking over vast territories for their plantations through the intimidation of farmers.
Finally, in Mexico, where the violence of the drug cartels and their private armies is becoming increasingly bloody, a number estimated at 160,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.
"In Mexico, drug cartels continued to attack government forces, public sector workers, civilians and journalists as they fought to control trafficking routes, forcing people to flee their place of residence,” according to the IDMC. “Locations close to the border with the United States were particularly affected.”
As Animal Politico discovered, local and national governments try to minimize the problem of mass displacement caused in the Golden Triangle where residents are caught in the middle of a dispute for territory.It looks like can't miss reporting.