By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press
About 230,000 people have been displaced in Mexico because of drug violence, and about half of them may have taken refuge in the United States, according to a new study.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre based this week's report on studies by local researchers, saying that the Mexican government does not compile figures on people who have had to leave their homes because of turf battles between drug gangs.
"Independent surveys put their number at around 230,000," according to the global report's section on Mexico. "An estimated half of those displaced crossed the border into the United States, which would leave about 115,000 people internally displaced, most likely in the States of Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila and Veracruz."
While that number is far below the estimated 3.6 to 5.2 million displaced by decades of drug- and guerrilla-war violence in Colombia, the report suggested that people who had to flee drug violence in Mexico have received little support.
"In Mexico, state and federal authorities did not acknowledge or start to respond to the internal displacement caused by drug cartels," the Geneva-based organization said.
Mexico's Interior Department said it had no immediate comment on the report.
However, government census figures released this month support the idea of an exodus, at least in some areas.
The census, carried out in mid-2010, listed as uninhabited 61 percent of the 3,616 homes in Praxedis G. Guerrero, a border township in the Rio Grande Valley east of Ciudad Juarez. The area has suffered turf battles between the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, and people in the town said gunmen have them to leave.
A striking 111,103 of the 488,785 homes in violence-wracked Ciudad Juarez were abandoned, or about 23 percent, and almost one-third of the 160,171 houses in Reynosa were unoccupied. The figure for Mexico as a whole was 14 percent, and many of those, especially in southern states, may belong to migrants who went to the United States seeking work.
Part of the exodus, the IDMC report noted, was because of the indiscriminate nature of the drug violence, which has killed more than 35,000 people since President Felipe Calderon ramped up an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.
Police in the northern city of Monterrey reported Friday that a local television host on a children's variety program was kidnapped and killed by gunmen and his body left on a roadside.
A cousin of host Jose Luis Cerda and a cameraman on his show also were also kidnapped late Thursday and were killed.
Cerda used the stage moniker "The Cat" on the children's program known as "The Club." Police officials said the motives were still under investigation.
Cerda's blindfolded, bound body was found in a vacant lot. After police received receiving a tip the gunmen might return to reclaim the body, police shooed journalists away from the scene and assailants carted off the corpse.
In the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, state police said gunmen pulled up to a gas station and opened fire, wounding an employee and a policeman. Four other local police were kidnapped while stationed in their patrol cars nearby. There was no immediate word on their whereabouts.
Nor are foreigners immune from gang violence, which has branched into kidnapping and extortion. On Friday, Mexico's Attorney General's Office offered a reward of 5 million pesos ($417,000) for information on the kidnapping of a Swiss man, Olivier Tshumi, 49, who was abducted in the central city of Cuernavaca in December. He has not been seen since.
While the Mexican government has acknowledged the extent and brutality of the drug violence, it remains sensitive to outside comments.
On Friday, the Foreign relations Department issued a statement hotly rejecting statements made Thursday by Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who said that cartels "dominated entire territories" in Mexico.
Mexico denied that was true, and said it had "expressed to the government of Ecuador its surprise at such statements ... through appropriate diplomatic channels."