Fleeing violence: the hidden victims of the war in Mexico, the case of forced internal displacement

Received: April 16, 2018

Acceptance: June 11, 2018


Within the framework of violence and human rights crisis in Mexico, the foundations have been laid for a new wave of forced internal displacement in the country, leaving thousands of Mexican families in extreme vulnerability and in complete abandonment. Faced with this, the Mexican State has maintained a reluctant stance to acknowledge the problem and, consequently, has not taken the pertinent actions to improve the quality of life of this population, making the effective exercise of their human rights impossible.

The following text presents the approach to the problem in Mexico from the experience of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH), a civil society organization that works on research, analysis, visibility, advocacy and comprehensive support to victims of the phenomenon.

Keywords: , , , ,

Fleeing violence: Mexico's hidden war-victims and forced internal displacement

Mexico's context of violence and human-rights crises have established the bases for a new wave of internal forced displacements, exposing thousands of the country's families to extreme vulnerability if not utter abandonment. In light of the situation, the Mexican government has sustained a reluctant attitude to recognizing the problem and consequently has taken no appropriate actions to improve these communities' quality of life. This in turn prevents effective exercise of human rights.

The text summarizes how the civil-society organization known as the Mexico Human-Rights Defense and Promotion Commission (Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos; acronym in Spanish: CMDPDH) ¬¬ — whose efforts focus on rights-abuse-victim -related research, analysis, visibility, involvement and support — has faced down the issue.

Key words: internal forced migration, the “War on Drugs”, human rights, recognition, violence.

The war against drug trafficking and its balances

Since 2006, the Mexican government has implemented a national security policy of open confrontation towards organized crime, also called the war against drug trafficking or the war against drugs. This strategy has been developed from the premise that the levels of violence present in Mexico respond directly to the presence, diversification and permanent dispute of the national territory between the different drug trafficking groups (Presidencia de la República, 2006: para. 6-8), omitting in its design structural problems deeply rooted in the Mexican State and justice system, such as poverty, inequality, corruption, collusion, and impunity.

Consequently, the armed forces have been endowed with an unprecedented level of participation, in functions that supplant the police forces and that have been deployed without a criterion of time determined throughout the national territory. The Internal Security Law, approved in December 2017 (DOF, 2017b) is seen as a way to reinforce and even consolidate this form of security policy by authorizing military intervention in internal public security activities (OHCHR, 2017).1

The balances derived from this security strategy have been socially devastating, especially in terms of the validity and respect for human rights. Since this policy was implemented in 2006, there have been 220,456 homicides in the country (SESNSP, 2018a). According to the SESNSP Crime Incidence database (2018a), the rate of violent homicides has been increasing, reaching a historical maximum, from January to December 2017, with the record of 25,324 people murdered. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions noted that at least 70,000 extrajudicial executions have been committed in the context of the war on drug trafficking.2 (UNHRC, 2014: para. 11). Likewise, 34,656 people were reported as missing in the common and federal jurisdiction as of January 1, 2018 (SESNSP, 2018b). Through requests for access to information, there is a record that 1,919 preliminary inquiries and investigation files were initiated for the crime of forced disappearance in the Attorney General's Office (PGR) and in the prosecutor's offices of the 32 states of the republic (PGR, 2017a), and that the Federal Judicial Power (CJF) has issued only nine convictions (CJF, 2017a). On the other hand, 15,848 preliminary inquiries and investigation files have been opened for the crime of torture in the PGR and in the public prosecutor's offices of the states of the republic (PGR, 2017b). The Federal Judicial Power only reports eight convictions (CJF, 2017b).

The evidence suggests that this increase in the number of victims exceeds any figure recorded in the contemporary history of Mexico, and confirms that the country has been facing a profound human rights crisis for years, in which atrocious and dehumanizing events continue to occur during the current administration. , under which, not only serious and massive human rights violations have been committed, but also potential crimes against humanity.3 “The intensity and patterns of violence committed since December 2006 constitute reliable evidence that the murders, forced disappearances and torture perpetrated by both federal government actors and cartel members,4 they are considered as crimes against humanity ”(Open Society Justice Initiative, 2016: 15-16).

Documented examples of these heinous crimes have been the massacre of migrants whose bodies were found in the mass grave in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, in 2010 and 2011 (CNDH, 2013; Open Society Justice Initiative, 2016); the extrajudicial execution of 22 people committed by military elements in Tlatlaya, State of Mexico, in June 2014 (CNDH, 2014); the forced disappearance of 43 young students in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, in September 2014 (CNDH, 2015a); the excessive use of force and the extrajudicial execution of 16 people in Apatzingan, Michoacán, in January 2015 (CNDH, 2015b); the arbitrary execution of 42 civilians and the deprivation of the life of 4 civilians in Tanhuato, Michoacán, in May 2015 (CNDH, 2016a) among others. Added to this are the “390 clandestine graves and the 1,418 bodies and 5,786 human remains exhumed from them in 23 states of the country found between 2009 and 2014” (UIA, CMDPDH, 2017: 31).5

In parallel, human rights defenders and journalists have had to document and denounce their own victimization, since in an increasingly common way, these figures have been the object of threats, intimidation, harassment, defamation, smear campaigns, digital surveillance and murder, all derived from his defense work and informational investigation. According to the organization Article 19, “from the year 2000 to May 2017, 111 communicators had been assassinated, 48 of them during the government of Felipe Calderón, and 32 during the mandate of Enrique Peña Nieto” (Article 19, 2017). For its part, “106 homicides and 81 disappearances of defenders were registered from December 1, 2012 to July 31, 2017” (Red TDT, 2017: para. 2).6

The human rights crisis in Mexico has been documented by national and international organizations and classified as serious “as it is an extreme situation of insecurity and violence that presents critical levels of impunity and inadequate and insufficient attention to the victims and their families” (IACHR, 2015a: 32). However, the current administration has been characterized by a lack of recognition of the situation facing the country, by ignorance and even "disqualification of the observations and recommendations that international human rights organizations have indicated in this regard; as well as the lack of a reliable national diagnosis on the human rights situation and the challenges it faces in this matter ”(Guzmán, 2017: 22), while the trend of these forms of victimization continues to increase in a scenario of almost absolute impunity (Amnesty International, 2016.

Forced internal displacement (DIF) in Mexico

Within this human rights crisis in Mexico, one of the problems that has been most invisible is the forced internal displacement of the population. In the last ten years, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes as a result of criminal acts and human rights violations committed against them or towards their family, or as a consequence of the well-founded fear of becoming victims in the face of the general climate of insecurity and impunity (CMDPDH, 2014: 6).

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stated in its report Human Rights Situation in Mexico (2015a) that "another of the serious human rights violations that have generated the various forms of violence that have occurred in Mexico in recent years has to do with forced internal displacement", and verified on the ground "the way in which that the violence of organized crime groups, which in some cases are in collusion with state agents, is leading, directly and indirectly, to the internal displacement of victims of human rights violations and their families ”(IACHR, 2015c: para. 74).

Another observation regarding the absence of actions by the Mexican State in the face of this problem is the lack of official information regarding the magnitude that the phenomenon of internal displacement reaches in Mexico. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reiterates, as it has already done in its report Human rights of migrants and other people in the context of human mobility in Mexico, carried out in 2013, this lack by the competent agencies of the Mexican State (IACHR, 2015a).

In this regard, the National Human Rights Commission in its Special Report on Forced Internal Displacement (2016b), the first report of a public body on the matter, highlighted that:

The Forced Internal Displacement of people in Mexico has been generated by violence, human rights violations, natural disasters, development projects, self-defense groups and journalistic activity. In recent years, it is a different violence that causes the mobility of people, since it is related to armed groups that are hitting different parts of the national territory.

According to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNHRC), internally displaced persons are understood to be:

People or groups of people who have been forced or forced to flee or flee from their home or their usual place of residence, in particular as a result of or to avoid the effects of an armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or man-made disasters, and that have not crossed an internationally recognized state border (UNHRC 1998: 5).

In some cases, DIF is considered a crime in the international arena and classified as a “war crime and crime against humanity” (CPI, 2002: art. 7). Due to its characteristic elements, it is a victimizing phenomenon that originates because:

[…] The State was unable to guarantee the protection of these people and prevent their displacement; can be of character massive by the number of victims it affects; systematic because its execution is sustained over time and the legal and factual system is unable to attend to it; as well as complex for the multiple and aggravated violation of their civil and political rights as well as their economic, social and cultural rights; And it is continuous, given that the condition of violation of the population persists in time until their assisted, dignified and safe return is achieved (Meier, 2007: para. 2).

For its part, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Co-IDH) has indicated that the situation of special vulnerability and defenselessness in which displaced persons generally find themselves can be understood “as a condition of fact of deprotection ”(Co-IDH, 2010: 141). Likewise, it has ruled that “the States must be held responsible for their actions or omissions that generate internal displacement, as well as for not having established the conditions or having provided the means for the safe return of the displaced population” (Co-IDH, 2011: para. 165).

In Mexico, the government has not recognized the phenomenon of DIF at its highest level, and does not have institutional and regulatory mechanisms for the care and protection of this population sector despite its permanent and incremental trend that extends throughout the territory Mexican, and the repercussions and the high humanitarian costs that it continues to represent.

According to the official response provided by federal authorities to the CNDH regarding whether the Mexican State confirms the existence of forced internal displacement in Mexico, the following was reported:

In the information brief sent by the [Human Rights Unit of the Ministry of the Interior] UDDH-SEGOB an analysis is carried out on the definition of the causes of DFI, according to the Guiding Principles, to conclude that in Mexico The existence of any of the elements necessary for the presence of internal forced displacement is not proven, so its recognition is not possible, adding that Although there is mobility due to violence, it is not of a generalized nature (CNDH, 2016b: 85).

The response provided by the Mexican State obliges us, in principle, to question the correct interpretation that it makes of the definition provided in the Guiding Principles of Displacement, and in that sense, to ask ourselves if the refusal of recognition responds to a deficient interpretive capacity; or even more serious, an absence of political will. On the other hand, the response provides an explicit recognition of mobility due to violence within the country; however, the emphasis is oriented towards the focalized nature of these displacements.

With the aim of promoting the counter-narrative to the official discourse, we will present some widely documented cases - fundamentally constructed by the academic sector and civil society organizations - that show the existence, continuity and generalization of massive displacements due to the various forms of violence present. in the country.

Evidence of the existence of the DIF in Mexico

The phenomenon of DIF has had a historical presence in our country at least since the 1970s. Population displacements were caused at that time by religious intolerance, communal conflicts, land and territory, and natural resources (Rivera, 2007; Martínez , 2005; CDHFC, 2003). During the 1970s and 1990s, the internal displacement of people was due to political and intra-community conflicts, caused to a greater extent between supporters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), producing displacement in rural and indigenous communities In Chiapas,7 and some conflicts in Oaxaca8 (Rivera, 2007). In these years, the forced displacements of the indigenous population occurred in the framework of the “so-called Dirty War and in the government's struggle to weaken insurgent groups and independent indigenous social movements”, especially in the states of the southeast of the country (Benavides, Patargo, 2012: 78; emphasis added).

The most emblematic case has been that of the Triqui indigenous people9 in Oaxaca, whose displacement has been a constant situation that has been evident since 1970 as a consequence attributable to multiple factors (De Marinis, 2013). However, the political violence exercised above all by the State to repress and dismantle independent indigenous organizations in their struggle to obtain their autonomy as indigenous peoples over the decades, constituted one of the main causes that led to the forced abandonment of hundreds of families during the conflict (De Marinis, 2013).

Despite the fact that forced population displacement appeared as a constant reality in the history of this region, in the specialized literature on the subject there are no precedents for its recognition and specialized treatment prior to 2010.

In this year (2010), the displacement of “around 600 indigenous Triqui” occurred due to the resurgence of violence in the area that was framed by serious human rights violations, massacres and systematic grievances carried out — during months of confinement. - towards the population by armed groups linked to the PRI (De Marinis, 2017). But unlike other displacements that occurred during previous years, it achieved its visibility, due to the dimension that the conflict and violence - classified as extreme - reached, as well as the combination of various media, political and legal actions that the population itself carried out (De Marinis, 2017) which resulted in the granting of precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, 2010). The latter, issued on October 7, 2010, was essential for the official recognition of the displacement of at least 135 displaced persons from the Triqui indigenous people of San Juan Copala and a determining factor for the promotion of subsequent - partial - intervention policies (IACHR, 2010 ).

However, the case of DIF that occurred during the armed conflict in Chiapas represents the most important precedent at the national level, as it is the first recognized under the category of "displacement" and the only one accepted for the cause of armed conflict (CNDH, 2016b: 3), which made it possible to open a gap for the understanding of this problem; first, by distinguishing it from other forms of migration linked above all to situations of an economic nature, and by contributing to the identification and recognition of the occurrence of displacement in similar contexts in the country.

Although internal displacement had been a latent reality in this state several decades ago, it was not until the early 1990s that population displacements related to the armed conflict began to appear. Its large-scale spread advanced as the confrontations between the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and elements of the Mexican Army became more acute. Between 1994 and 1998, the armed conflict had caused the displacement of "between 50,000 and 84,000 people, 99% indigenous and 98% Zapatistas and opposed to the regime of the Institutional Revolutionary Party" (Arana y del Riego, 2012: 19), of which "were estimates that as of today, more than 30 thousand are in a condition of prolonged forced internal displacement "10 in this entity (Rubio and Pérez, 2016: 32).

According to the statement made on internally displaced persons by Dr. Francis M. Deng - then representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations - during his official visit to Mexico from August 18 to 28 in 2002, the entities that during These years presented forced displacements were: "Oaxaca, Guerrero, Sinaloa, Tabasco and to a greater extent Chiapas." Similarly, the Diagnosis on the situation of Human Rights in Mexico, prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner (OHCHR) in 2003, mentions that the general figures estimated for that year, despite the absence of an official statistic, vary "between 3,000 and 60,000 displaced persons", citing as causes the “conflicts related to religious practices, conflicts over land, including illegal invasions, drug trafficking, forced evictions by government authorities or irregular armed groups that migrate within Mexican territory” (OHCHR, 2003 : 170).

Unlike the previous waves of massive displacement in Mexico, in the last decade the DIF has increased dramatically under the scene of insecurity and violence that the country is going through. Most of the events are the result of criminal violence through the victimization of civilians through murder, disappearance, forced recruitment, extortion, robbery, dispossession, threats, harassment or intimidation and fear (Pérez, 2016: 8).

We identify that the situation has shown its magnitude since the security strategy of combat open to drug trafficking was established, particularly since the deployment of the first joint operatives11 “In the most violent entities of the country whose homicide rates were exacerbated to the level of some of the most violent countries in the world, such as Venezuela or Colombia, as a causal effect derived from their implementation” (Merino, 2011: para. 9). Thus, along with “the fragmentation of the large cartels, the emergence of new and smaller criminal cells throughout the country, added to the high rates of impunity and corruption, it was that internal displacement began to become more common” (Rubio and Pérez , 2016: 32).

The 2014 Global Report of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) stated in that year, “that the expansion of criminal violence, in particular the activities of criminal groups and large-scale military operations implemented to combat them, had been the cause of the displacement of tens of thousands of people ”, and placed the country's global figure at 160,000 displaced persons (IDMC, 2014).

According to the research work on the registration of episodes of massive forced internal displacement12 occurred in the country that the authors of this manuscript carried out in the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) in which, through systematic monitoring of the local and national media and contact with organizations of civil society reporting such events, quantitative and qualitative data are obtained that allow the identification, dimensioning and better understanding of the DIF phenomenon, until the end of 2016 310,527 internally displaced persons had been registered (CMDPDH, 2016). And in the period from January to December 2017, at least 25 episodes of massive displacement were identified, which are estimated to have affected 20,390 people (CMDPDH, 2018: 9). These displacements were registered in at least 9 states, 27 municipalities and 79 localities. In 2017, the main cause of displacement was violence generated by organized armed groups (such as cartels, organized crime groups, among others), this being the most frequent cause, with 68% of all episodes. The other causes registered during that year were political violence, social conflict and territorial conflicts (28% of the total), and an extractive mining project (4% of the total). The research work carried out by the CMDPDH, in turn, managed to identify that the most frequently identified form of violence was that which involves armed attacks against the communities; armed confrontations between criminal groups and between them and State agents; threats and intimidation, and burning or destruction of houses, crops, businesses and vehicles (CMDPDH, 2018).

The states that were most affected this year were Chiapas, Guerrero and Sinaloa, which are among those with the highest number of episodes and account for approximately 74% of the total victims. Thus, according to the historical-cumulative record carried out by the CMDPDH as of December 2006, the estimated total of internally forcibly displaced persons in Mexico as of December 2017 is 329,917 (CMDPDH, 2018).

Based on the work carried out on the matter by the CMDPDH, we have enough information to confirm that forced internal displacement is a reality that has been present during the last decade in at least 18 entities of the country: Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, Guerrero , Michoacán, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Zacatecas, State of Mexico, Jalisco, Nayarit, Coahuila and Hidalgo13.

For its part, the Special Report on Forced Internal Displacement (DFI) in Mexico, prepared by the National Human Rights Commission, registered through requests for information, files, detailed records and through a sampling based on questionnaires applied in 65 municipalities of the 32 states, 35,433 people who were victims of forced internal displacement who were referred by third parties, of which 31,798 were displaced due to crime and 1,784 people identified themselves as forced internally displaced persons. These displacements were registered in 27 entities of the country, mainly in Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Puebla, Veracruz, among others (CNDH, 2016b).

As an accompanying organization and specialist in the problem of internal forced displacement in Mexico, we have witnessed the accumulation of evidence that has been presented to the Mexican government and its reluctance to validate it effectively.

In this sense, there are two main factors that, during the monitoring and investigation of the phenomenon, we have observed that make such recognition difficult: on the one hand, the problem of semantics and, on the other, that of the arithmetic. We take up both expressions because we agree that they synthesize the current situation in which the approach to the phenomenon is found, and given that they were used by the representatives of the Mexican government during their participation and in response to the allegations presented by the organizations requesting the last public hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2016, December 5) on the Situation of human rights of people affected by internal displacement in Mexico held in 2016.


With the problem of semantics, we refer to the reluctance of the Mexican government to conceptualize, base and define explicitly, in existing normative frameworks and laws, forced internal displacement. This absence prevents their identification, registration and, consequently, specialized care and restitution of their rights.

In the national framework, despite the fact that two state laws have been created to prevent and address internal displacement: Law for the prevention and attention of internal displacement in the state of Chiapas (Decree No. 158, 2012) and the Law for the prevention and attention of internal displacement in the state of Guerrero (Decree No. 487, 2014), both laws, since their creation, do not have regulations, which means that they have not been implemented.

For its part, General Victims Law (LGV) (DOF, 2017a), which represents the only current and adequate legal instrument to register, attend and protect the rights of the victims of said phenomenon, is insufficient for the forced internally displaced to be registered with the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims (CEAV).14

Since its inception, the LGV has included three articles15 internally displaced persons as vulnerable groups that could be beneficiaries of the Law, however its definition was not part of the initial document and it has not been incorporated into the different reforms that the Law has undergone (DOF, 2017a).16 There was even an express refusal to remove the term forced in the recently revised article (2016, December 5). As an organization that legally represents cases of internal forced displacement, we have been able to give an account of the resistance that exists to register the victims of displacement and with it, the series of bureaucratic obstacles to carry them out; The main obstacle is the lack of recognition of the status of victims of human rights violations caused by displacement, despite the fact that the CEAV itself has the power to autonomously recognize the status of victim.17 The foregoing, even though in 2014, through an agreement approved by the majority of the commissioners, it was recognized that “the situation of targeted internal displacement should be considered as a autonomous victimizing fact that requires attention with a differential and specialized approach ”(CEAV, 2014; my italics).

In this sense, we observe that the absence of a legal-normative framework that indicates the DIF as a autonomous victimizing fact and the absence of a definition of this phenomenon in accordance with the Mexican reality in this Law, will make the bureaucratic obstacles that make it difficult to register and, therefore, the care of the thousands of victims of this phenomenon at the state and federal level.


With the problem of arithmetic, we refer to the refusal of the State to measure the phenomenon of displacement through the elaboration of an official diagnosis that provides disaggregated information that allows the victims to be identified and their protection and assistance needs determined.

To date, there is no official registry or census on the displaced population. However, national statistical sources offer approximations that show their existence.

For example, official data provided by entities such as the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), show through the results of various population surveys - without their objective being explicitly the identification of the problem - the presence of the phenomenon in high dimensions.

The National Survey of Victimization and Perception of Public Safety (ENVIPE) 2017 confirms the relationship between violence and forced displacement: by revealing that 24.2 million people aged 18 years or older were victims of some crime (such as extortion, fraud, robbery, verbal threats , injuries, kidnappings, sexual crimes, among others) which represents a rate of 28,788 victims per 100,000 inhabitants during 2016, comparable with the period of 2013 and 2014. Likewise, this survey indicates that in 2016, of a total population of 122,443,604 inhabitants, 1,061,098 people aged 18 years and over, chose to change their home or place of residence either in a planned or abrupt manner to protect themselves from crime during 2016. This represents 0.9% of the population total of the country (INEGI, 2017). For its part, the National Demographic Dynamics Survey reflects that between August 2009 and September 2014, 185,936 people in the country had to change their residence to another entity due to public insecurity (INEGI, 2014).

Regarding these figures, the response of the authorities has been the dismissal of these official sources. According to the response provided by Segob's then Under-Secretary for Human Rights during the aforementioned public hearing before the IACHR (2016, December 5), after presenting this information, it was: “If any change of address for reasons of Security is considered as forced internal displacement […] it will be necessary to review the statistics on this matter from all over the world ”(IACHR, 2016, December 5).

Given this reply, it should be noted that there is no mobility due to insecurity that is not forced. It should also be emphasized that the main constituent elements of displacement - as its name refers to it - are not only the causes that generate it, but that it takes place within the internal borders of a country and, therefore, the responsibility to provide Protection and care for the population in this situation falls to the State.

Actions deployed to recognize forced internal displacement: experience as a human rights defense organization

Given the reluctance of the Mexican State to build a minimum base that allows it to begin guiding its efforts to attend to the victims of this great humanitarian drama that part of the Mexican population suffers, investigations, works and approaches have emerged from various spaces to continue documenting and denouncing its presence, escalation and its impacts.18

One of these efforts has been made by the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights.19 Since 2014, the area of forced internal displacement was incorporated into the organic structure of the CMPDPH, recognizing the need to address the growing problem that no one was attending to or accompanied by any other organization at the national level.

Since then, in the absence of an official diagnosis, documentation and comprehensive analysis with a broad, multidisciplinary and multifactorial perspective of the phenomenon of internal displacement, the CMDPDH has developed work around the issue in order to influence20 favorably for its inclusion in the public agenda as a problem of urgent approach and attention in the field of human rights.

In this sense, our task has been to carry out a research work of a qualitative and quantitative nature, in order to pay for the visibility, understanding and recognition of the phenomenon of internal forced displacement in Mexico, as well as the recognition of its victims for , consequently, contribute to providing care.

The work is carried out from a comprehensive approach that considers, on the one hand, to contribute in an increasingly profound way to the analysis of the needs of the population in the stages that constitute the cycle of displacement, identifying its causes, grievances and violence against them. those who are subjected in the place of origin, the enormous human and material losses, the dangers they go through during the flight, as well as the shortcomings they face when trying to rebuild their lives in the places of destination.

On the other hand, in a particular way, the research carried out within the area offers an annual estimate of the number of people in Mexico who are victims of forced internal displacement. This process began in 2011 with the work prepared by the academic Laura Rubio Díaz Leal, who is an expert on the subject and a consultant for the CMDPDH. This data collection work was resumed and continues to occur permanently in order to identify the magnitude of displacement through the recording of media coverage of episodes of massive forced internal displacement in the country.

In the absence of a formal measurement of the problem, the CMDPDH is the only organization that provides a record of the episodes of massive displacement and an estimate of the number of people affected,21 in order to assist with the work of strategic actors, government institutions and non-governmental organizations, while serving as input for decision-making, as well as for the development of strategies, proposals and actions to prevent and address the phenomenon of internal forced displacement and its victims.

As a crucial element in monitoring the issue, the CMDPDH has led priority spaces for advocacy, dialogue and articulation to raise the issue within the national and international political agenda.22 These efforts to articulate have also made it possible to report on the work carried out on the matter by other human rights organizations throughout the country and the academic sector, tending increasingly consolidated ties for their joint treatment.

Finally, in a coordinated manner with the Defense area of the CMDPDH and responding to the nature of the organization, emblematic cases of forced internal displacement in the country are accompanied in a legal manner - through strategic litigation -, bringing their demand for justice to all the pertinent instances at the national and international level. The foregoing makes it possible to identify the great protection and care gaps that exist for displaced persons, as well as to recognize the challenges that must be established immediately in this regard. This helps to generate the necessary legal precedents that lead to care, access to justice, and the restoration of rights for all victims of forced internal displacement in the country.

Despite the thousands of victims that exist, whose number is increasing in our country, and who remain in a state of defenselessness and abandonment, the Mexican State has not carried out the pertinent actions to improve the quality of life of the displaced population in a way forced, even less those aimed at repairing the various human rights violations resulting from their condition of displacement.

Once the information that allows us to demonstrate the existence of forced internal displacement in our country has been captured from multiple perspectives, it is worth asking ourselves: what other elements would allow the Mexican State to prove the existence of forced internal displacement?

The emergence of a movement of victims appears as an immediate answer to the question posed.

About a movement of displacement victims

During the last few years in Mexico - faced with a complex scenario in which forms of violence are diversifying - civil society organizations, hand in hand with groups and movements of victims, have redoubled their efforts through monitoring, documentation, investigation and accompaniment to cases of human rights violations in order to seek justice, truth, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition for the victims.

However, unlike other serious human rights violations, the work related to the phenomenon of internal forced displacement and its victims is still in its infancy. The work of civil society organizations, regarding the recognition of the problem, takes place within a very wide gap that covers different aspects: explain its definition for the correct identification of the phenomenon by public institutions, society in general and even from his own victims; achieve its study and quantification in the absence of data and formal records that contribute to its measurement; carry out the legal accompaniment of victims who do not find their definition within the law that protects them.

On the other hand, the emergence of groups of victims organized around the problem would be essential to achieve their recognition; in fact, it would allow its effective incidence in the possible outline of public policies for its attention; furthermore, it would become an effort to escape the objectification of the displaced person, sponsoring the emergence of “politicized identities among people who suffer stigmatization and abandonment of the State” (Aparicio, 2005: 146), and would help transcend “the idea [of the displaced person] of docile bodies without decision-making power over their projects individual and collective life ”(ibid: 145). However, although there are some experiences of the organized displaced population, to date there is not a sufficiently articulated, strong and representative movement of victims that manages to promote the initiative at the national level.

From our experience, we venture to outline some factors that could explain this absence. Among them are:

  1. At first, ignorance and misinformation about the nature of the problem. Based on the work carried out, we have observed that most of the victims of forced internal displacement fail to identify themselves as such. The lack of knowledge of the terminology and the few dissemination actions around the problem result in the victims not identifying said violation. This logic is present even in people who, as a result of some other violation of human rights, find themselves displaced. They recognize themselves as victims of the first violation that triggered the displacement, not as victims of forced internal displacement, even when the situation of displacement remains.
  2. The fear and low profile of the victims. Forced displacements are usually carried out under a certain secrecy so that the victims are not identified at the time of the flight, or during the journey or place of destination. With the intention of not drawing attention to the fear that the violence and the agents that triggered their displacement will appear at the place of refuge, the victims tend to limit their actions to demand justice.
  3. The fear of criminalization and social stigmatization. In Mexico there is a strong tendency to criminalize victims of violence. Government institutions as well as the media play an important role in the stigmatization of the displaced population. There is a deeply rooted narrative within Mexican society that dictates that only those people involved within some organized crime group are impacted by state violence or that generated by other crime groups. This narrative can generate great mistrust of displaced people within host communities.
  4. The absence of territorial roots and solidarity networks in the places of destination. Ignorance of community dynamics, as well as ignorance of local social codes, coupled with the absence of solid solidarity networks, can impact on the construction and positioning of a collective lawsuit.
  5. Lack of coverage of individual and collective basic needs. Intrinsic to the condition of displacement is a gradual and progressive or absolute and immediate process of impoverishment. The need to direct all efforts towards individual and family survival tends to be a priority over the medium and long-term processes of seeking justice, even more so in the case of an unrecognized form of victimization.

In this regard, it is worth mentioning the experience dictated by the movements of victims of violence in our country, such as the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity,23 and the Movement for our disappeared,24 that in an articulated manner and showing complete legitimacy to do so, they have managed to effectively influence the legal-regulatory framework of our country. At the same time, these movements have triggered solidarity and resistance to the dehumanization of Mexican society at a time when violence permeates the institutional and social structure. In parallel, they dispute the contemporary official narrative and contribute to the construction of a society in which justice, truth and memory can lay the foundations for the definition of public policy.

Final thoughts: challenges and challenges

Faced with such an adverse context and a State reluctant to recognize the current crisis of violence and human rights, which results in the lack of recognition of the problem and consequently the condition of victim of the displaced population, as an organization we have overturned all our efforts in generating reliable information. On the one hand, such information can influence the making of informed decisions regarding the nature of the problem and the correct care of the victims by the government authorities in the different stages of displacement. On the other hand, it allows us to promote the visibility of the problem beyond the institutional sphere, since we seek to sensitize, firstly, social organizations, in order to expose the transversal nature of the problem, and secondly, the population in general on the vulnerability of the internally displaced population. At the same time, we intend to show the institutional dislocation in which displaced people live, with the intention of mobilizing consciences and triggering solidarity and social empathy that contributes to positioning the issue as a priority public problem.

The international advocacy process that we carry out from the information generated from the Internal Displacement area of the CMDPDH, allows us to also appeal to the support and listening of international human rights organizations, motivating them to generate positions in favor of the displaced population, directly questioning the Mexican State about its existence, need for recognition and attention.

We also consider that the visibility of the problem will generate the favorable conditions so that its victims can recognize and assume themselves as such, which will lay the foundations for a future articulation and organization of victims.

In this sense, we understand that the possibility of persuading for the improvement of the quality of life of these people lies largely in the articulation strength that can be built around the cause. For this, there is a whole range of possibilities for approaching and supporting the displaced population, since the treatment of this problem is still in an initial stage. Under the premise that the official recognition of forced internal displacement in Mexico constitutes the greatest challenge for victims to be registered and cared for as such, it is possible to return to the Colombian experience that shows signs of a multifactorial, gradual and evolutionary recognition process with a long history . Although in 1995 the official recognition of the problem was achieved, which was formalized in 1997 through the issuance of Law 387, it was until the ruling issued by the Colombian Constitutional Court nine years later through ruling T-025, when it was given place to scrutiny of public policy for displacement. The foregoing led to an extensive development of said judgment in which the active participation of the victims, the academic sector and civil society have been central to the design, implementation and evaluation of public policy aimed at the attention and prevention of the phenomenon (Rodríguez and Rodríguez, 2010).

Specifically, we consider that the academic sector could contribute to the elaboration, for example, of proposals for standardized registration instruments that add to the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the phenomenon and the conditions that generate it. Another form of approach from the academy or civil society organizations arises from the need to support in the comparative analysis of public policies, and in the design of plans and programs of national scope that respond to the problem. This would provide substantial content to the technical discussion through the development of a national law on internal displacement - if this is considered the appropriate response - or, failing that, some other instrument that facilitates accompaniment and support by the State towards the victims. .

There are some indications, drawn from the Colombian experience, about the challenges in the efficient implementation of the public care and prevention policy that will have to be addressed once the recognition of the problem has been achieved, among them we can name: 1) The construction of an expanded and sufficiently extensive definition of the displaced person, according to the context; 2) The construction of an integral perspective of the policy and with it the definition of goals and terms of the policy; 3) The assignment and clear delimitation of functions and responsibilities, as well as administrative resources for their proper execution; 4) The guarantee of participation of the displaced population in the design and implementation of public policies for care and prevention, with the intention of “glimpsing and maintaining the heterogeneity of perspectives that exist among the displaced themselves regarding their situation and expectations. that they have for the future, as well as in the face of public policy on forced displacement ”(Aparicio, 2005: 162); 5) The flexibility in bureaucratic schemes aimed at the attention of the population, and 6) The construction of an efficient and reliable information system and Single Registry of the displaced population (Rodríguez and Rodríguez, 2010).

Finally, we recognize that the problem of forced internal displacement and, above all, its victims, have an arduous path ahead of them to be recognized, so actions around their visibility, investigation and measurement are fundamental. We reiterate that internal forced displacement is not an isolated phenomenon and constitutes an autonomous violation of multiple rights, so that the collective efforts that we can make from different spaces may result in a substantial improvement of their current living conditions.


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