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By JESSICA GUERRERO

MORELIA, Michoacán — The cartel violence in Mexico has continued to increase since the beginning of the drug war in 2006, and despite government efforts to put an end to it, continues to add victims to its list of causalities on a daily basis.

The number of homicides in Mexico went from 9,921 deaths in 2005 to 35,679 in 2020, according to the records of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi). This figure represents an increase of more than 300 percent in the number of violent murders over the last 15 years.

On the other hand, according to data from the National Human Rights Commission, from 1964 to September of this year, forced disappearances in the country reached 92,000, of which at least 90,000 were related to the rampant violence caused by Mexico’s drug war.

And in recent months, the consequences of the Mexican government’s lame war on organized crime has generated a social phenomenon never before seen in the country: the massive displacement of thousands of Mexicans, both within the national territory, as well as abroad.

Numerous communities and municipalities, located mainly in central and northern Mexico. have become proxy battlefields for power struggles between the cartels in the region. These constant clashes between criminal groups have triggered a severe social crisis that has forced entire villages to flee their homes to escape the violence.

Michoacán, Zacatecas and Chihuahua top the list of states with the highest number of displaced persons in the country, reaching record figures in August, with a total of 3,462 displacement victims. This number is only a small fraction of the total 11,561 forced displacement victims who were forced from their homes between the months of January to August of this year.

Many of the displaced have found temporary refuge from the incessant extortion and violence in the hometowns in border cities such as Tijuana, while others wait to receive humanitarian or asylum visas from the U.S. government. And still others have decided to seek refuge in large cities across the country, where they have tried to blend in with the bulk of the population.

And, then, there are those who have decided to stay in those communities despite the climate of desolation and insecurity that persists there. These brave souls face other challenges just to survive from day-to-day: the shortage of food and services caused by the armed conflict between criminal groups, who keep the population besieged and under their yoke. They are, to a great extent, abandoned by the outside world, without the support of local and federal governments, which have preferred to turn a blind eye rather than involve themselves in the conflict.

Unexpectedly, it is the clerics of the local Catholic Church who have been the ones who have put into action humanitarian strategies to help Mexico’s deserted and displaced people, and to help them leave their communities safely, often accompanying them in their journey to refugee centers located in the northern fringe of the country, where the priests themselves, together with with other activist organizations, manage and support these desperate people with their own resources and donations.

Nonetheless, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador does not seem to even acknowledge that the rampant cartel violence in the country is causing this massive displacement of people. With his policy of “hugs not bullets,” the victims have had to rely on their own resources to escape from the cartel violence.

 

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