Monday, April 11, 2011

Displacement in Mexico

This is unsettling:
Just after Christmas, drug hitmen rolled into the isolated village of Tierras Coloradas and burned it down, leaving more than 150 people, mostly children, homeless in the raw mountain winter.

The residents, Tepehuan Indians who speak Spanish as a second language and have no electricity or running water, had already fled into the woods, sleeping under trees or hiding in caves after a raid by a feared drug gang on December 26.


In the northern states of Durango, Chihuahua and Tamaulipas, cartels fighting for control of lucrative smuggling routes to the United States have threatened entire towns with ultimatums to flee or be killed.

No official numbers exist, but the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, or IDMC, estimates 115,000 people have been displaced by Mexico's drug violence.

Another 115,000 or more have fled and slipped into the United States, IDMC says. Some leave and then move back, creating a floating population that is hard to track.
It strikes me that it can be hard to pin down categories regarding displacement and flight from crime. If you are told to leave town or you'll be killed and you subsequently do so, you are clearly displaced (and smart). If you leave town without being told to do so but to escape extortion, I imagine that qualifies as fleeing crime. But the line gets a little fuzzy further down that slope. Suppose you receive a job offer in another town, the job is a bit better than your present one and the city is a bit safer. You decide to move in part because of the crime, but even if the cities were the same in terms of security, the move would still be a coin flip. In this case, crime played a role in your thinking, but at the same time it didn't quite drive you out of your town. Did you flee? Probably not, but you can see how the definitions aren't crystal clear.

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