Drug-related violence and other forms of conflict forced over 20,000 people to leave their homes and look for safer places to live in 2017 according to Mexican Commission on Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH). The data, which was published in a report Wednesday, shows 20,390 citizens in six states fled because of the violent actions of state forces and "organized armed groups" such as cartels, local gangs, and vigilantes.
According to the report, there were over 25 forced massive internal displacements during the period studied with over 60 percent of those displaced belonging to an indigenous group such as the Nahua, Tzotzil, Raramuri, Tepehuan, Purepecha and Mixe people.
An estimated 11,232 people were forced to flee their homes due to drug gang violence in 2017 with another 8,928 people being forced to flee due to local land, political or religious conflicts. The commission says a total of 329,917 people were forced to move between 2006 and 2017 for similar seasons but stated those numbers exclude families or individuals that migrated by themselves and only takes into account cases of entire communities being displaced one of the group's directors Jose Guevara said.
“The government knows the number,” Guevara stated, but refuses to "recognizing the size of the problem and the existence of armed conflict.”
According to other estimates, the total number of displaced people in Mexico could be closer to one million persons.
In 2017, the states that had most displaced residents were Chiapas -where violence in the Chenalho and Chalchihuitan communities displaced over 6 thousand people - Oaxaca, Guerrero, Sinaloa, and Chihuahua.
Seven out of ten of the displaced citizens said they decided to leave their homes because the presence of armed groups in their communities was making life unbearable as they attacked businesses, threatening them or forced them to join their groups.
The rest were displaced due to territorial disputes. In some cases, however, both causes of displacement are closely linked.
“It's time for the Mexican government to recognize this problem. It's urgent that institutions such as the Protection Mechanism in Defense or Journalists and Human Rights and the CEAV [Executive Commission of Victims Attention] to adopt comprehensive and differentiated attention measures for the forced internal displacement victims,” said Maricela Orozco, a human rights defender from Veracruz, whose son was kidnapped, murdered and buried with at least other 300 people in Colinas de Santa Fe, by the port of Veracruz.