HomeNewsBriefIllicit Alcohol Market Drives Another Epidemic in Mexico
BRIEF

Illicit Alcohol Market Drives Another Epidemic in Mexico

CONTRABAND / 21 SEP 2020 BY KATIE JONES EN

A spate of deaths linked to adulterated alcohol in Mexico has raised concerns that restrictions on alcohol sales during the coronavirus pandemic have encouraged the expansion of an already perilous black market.

Over the last week, six people have died in San Salvador El Seco, in the southern state of Puebla, after consuming tainted alcohol. These were only the latest deaths in what has become a worrying trend.

Citing recent data from the National Council Against Addiction (Comisión Nacional contra las Adicciones – CONADIC), El País reported that over 200 people across 11 Mexican states had died of suspected alcohol poisoning from May to July.

The states of Jalisco, Puebla, Michoacán and Yucatán have each reported numerous fatalities linked to the consumption of presumably adulterated beverages in the midst of pandemic restrictions on legal retail.

SEE ALSO: Alcohol Smuggling: A Hangover for Latin America?

In response, authorities have attempted to impede the illicit trade, most notably seizing 7,000 bottles of clandestine whiskey and arresting four at a warehouse in Morelos last June.

Meanwhile, just under a thousand bottles of illegal liquor were confiscated in municipalities across Guerrero, where at least 18 people died from alcohol poisoning in the space of a week.

These types of adulterated alcohol usually have extremely high alcoholic content. In April, a batch of liquor made from sugar cane, with an astonishing 96 percent of alcohol, was linked to 21 deaths in the states of Jalisco and Michoacán.

Esteban Giudici, a policy advisor at the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Commerce (Alianza Transnacional para Combatir el Comercio Ilícito – TRACIT) recently told EFE that it had been decades since intoxications of this magnitude were last recorded in Mexico.

InSight Crime Analysis

Laws limiting the sale of beer and liquor during the pandemic may be stoking what was already a growing black market for bootlegged alcohol.

Although authorities claim that it is still too early to make a direct link between the market’s growth and the pandemic, Mexico’s trade in illicit alcohol has expanded rapidly in recent years.

In 2018, Euromonitor reported that approximately 42.5 percent of total alcohol sales in the nation came from illegal sources, making it the largest illicit alcohol market in Latin America by volume.

SEE ALSO: Brand-Name Coronavirus Drug Appears in Venezuela's Black Market

According to Iñaki Landaburu, president of the National Association of Wholesale Grocers (Asociación Nacional de Abarroteros Mayoristas – ANAM), restrictions on legal alcohol sales during the pandemic were driving up this black market.

"When consumers don’t find legal alcohol, they opt for a different satisfier with a lower price," Landaburu told El Financiero.

The production of adulterated alcohol is often made by localized bootlegging operations, made up of small groups or even individuals, that work to meet a consistent demand. In June, the government proposed stringent new laws for this crime, with penalties of up to 12 years in prison and fines of up to 130,000 pesos ($6,000) for those caught producing or selling adulterated alcohol.

Illicit markets for medicine, medical equipment and even oxygen have also expanded across Latin America in response to consumer behaviors influenced by COVID-19.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CARIBBEAN / 9 MAR 2021

A new investigative report shows Ponzi and pyramid schemes have proliferated across Caribbean countries during the pandemic, and authorities have…

HUMAN RIGHTS / 29 JUN 2022

As many as 50 migrants have been found dead inside a truck 150 miles north of the US-Mexico border.

CHINA AND CRIME / 14 APR 2022

The full threat posed to Mexico's biodiversity by both Mexican and Chinese organized crime networks has been revealed in a…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…

WORK WITH US

Work With Us: Research Internship and Editorial Internship

31 OCT 2022

InSight Crime, a think tank dedicated to the study of organized crime and citizen security in the Americas, is seeking interns and investigators to join its dynamic, multinational team.