|More than 34,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since December 2006 [AFP]
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, a new study has revealed.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre [IDMC] based its report, released this week, on studies by local researchers.
The Geneva-based organisation noted that the Mexican government does not compile its own 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," the global report's section on Mexico said.
"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."
The report also suggested that people who had to flee Mexico's drug violence had 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 IDMC report 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 61 per cent as uninhabited out 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 had caused them to leave.
The census found that 23 per cent - that's 111,103 of the 488,785 homes in violence-wracked Ciudad Juarez - were abandoned, and almost one-third of the 160,171 houses in Reynosa were unoccupied.
The figure for Mexico as a whole was 14 per cent, 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 34,000 people since President Felipe Calderon ramped up an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.
The report comes as police in the northern city of Monterrey on Friday reported that Jose Luis Cerda, a local television host, was kidnapped and killed by gunmen and his body left on a roadside.
Cerda's blindfolded, bound body was found in a vacant lot, then stolen by gunmen as police were cordoning off the area.
A spokesman for the state government who was not authorised to give his name, said Cerda's body turned up for a second time later on Friday beside a main road in the city centre, and was secured by authorities.
In the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, five dismembered bodies, four of them police officers who were abducted hours earlier, were also found just a few blocks from where the President Calderon and Zeferino Torreblanca, Guerrero State Governor, inaugurated the city's annual Tourism Fair for international tour operators and industry officials.
Calderon has declared 2011 the Year of Tourism as Acapulco is facing record levels of violence from warring cartels, including an attack on a bar that killed 10 last weekend; another 27 people were killed in one day of violence in January.
The bodies on Friday were found inside an abandoned SUV with banners, the content of which was not publicly revealed. Drug gangs often leave messages with their victims' bodies.