Oct 2, 2012

The New Face of Forced Displacement in Latin America

InSight Crime: Written by Sibylla Brodzinsky

Forced displacement has a long history in Latin America. For decades - and even centuries in some countries - entire villages, families and individuals have sought refuge in the nearest town or neighboring country, fleeing the crossfire between two groups and threats to their lives.

Today, millions of Latin Americans are facing a new challenge that is leading to a familiar scenario. Organized crime -- which takes the form of large narco-trafficking cartels, street gangs, local drug dealing groups, leftist guerrillas, and private armies -- is displacing thousands of people in the region.

“Violence perpetrated for criminal rather than ideological ends remained a primary cause of displacement,” notes the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, which recorded 5.6 million Latin Americans living in displacement in 2011, mainly in Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala and Peru.

The reasons are many. Organized crime removes people who interfere with their business. They take over key territories for smuggling drugs, people, weapons or other merchandise. People also flee when criminal groups forcibly recruit their children, their neighbors. Sometimes these criminals simply want to flex their muscles, forcing people to leave to prove their point.

Since organized crime in Latin America knows no borders, neither should journalistic coverage of its effects on citizens. To investigate how criminal organizations affect fundamental rights, an alliance of digital media in the region -- under the coordination of InSight Crime and with the support of the Internews non-governmental organization in Washington DC -- explored the new face of displacement in Latin America. Read more. 

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