Drug Cartels in Mexico

By Keralis, Jessica | Forced Migration Review, March 2011 | Go to article overview

Drug Cartels in Mexico


Keralis, Jessica, Forced Migration Review


Drug-related violence in Mexico has escalated to catastrophic levels and is driving Mexican people from their homes and cities in droves.

When President Felipe Calderón launched his offensive against the drug cartels in 2006, the cartels struck back viciously, murdering politicians, journalists and civilians and terrorising the Mexican people. Over 28,000 people have been killed in the past four years. While the situation has captured attention in the US and internationally as a bordercontrol and immigration issue, few have commented on the internal displacement crisis that the conflict has created in the border region.

More Mexicans are applying for political asylum in the US and Canada, and business visa applications from Monterrey, Mexico's industrial centre and wealthiest city, rose 63% between 2006 and 2010 compared to the previous five years. A much larger, and mostly uncounted, number are being displaced internally.

Those fleeing the violence are primarily middle-class professionals (police officers, business owners, journalists, etc.) from large or midsized cities who are either directly threatened by the cartels or who simply leave when the situation becomes unstable. Ciudad Juárez has seen 10% (200,000) of its population flee the city because of fighting between Mexican police and military and the drug gangs. Unfortunately, while the Mexican government accepts refugees and asylum seekers from South America and other nations, it has historically paid very little attention to displaced individuals within its own borders. For example, indigenous populations driven from their homes due to discrimination and targeted violence have received little attention from the Mexican government, and it currently does not recognise the drug war as a cause of displacement. The situation also receives very little attention from the media. As a result, there are no reliable figures for the number of IDPs in Mexico and no incentive to assess the extent of the problem.

A number of experts contend that criminal organisations such as the drug cartels in Mexico should be defined as non-state armed groups as they are challenging the authority of the Mexican government. …

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