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Thousands flee Mexico's epicenter of marijuana and poppy production

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InSight Crime researches, analyzes, and investigates organized crime in the Americas. Find all of Steven Dudley's research here.

A flood of villagers are fleeing their homes in the state of Sinaloa, driven out by a battle between two of the country's biggest criminal organizations – the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltran Leyva Organization – for the crown jewel of Mexico's drug production: the Sierra Madre mountain range.

In May, the Sinaloa state government released a report (see pdf in original post) claiming 1,203 families, or an estimated 5,000 people, had been forced to leave their homes in the last several months, but blamed the displacements on both increasing violence in the area and a severe drought. The Sinaloa Human Rights Commission, a non-governmental organization, says the number of displaced in the state is closer to 25,000 people over roughly the same period, the vast majority of whom are fleeing the fighting between drug cartels.

Both the state and the human rights organization reports agree that the majority of these people come from municipalities in the Sierra Mountains, which cut through the states of Sinaloa, Durango, and Chihuahua. This region makes up part of the so-called Golden Triangle, the epicenter of marijuana and poppy (the raw ingredient for heroin) production in the country. Authorities also believe there are large, industrial-size methamphetamine labs in the area.

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