President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told the cartels that they should focus on ending violence instead of giving out the care packages.
- Armed narcos have been seen handing out food and coronavirus aid stamped with cartel logos.
- The packages have included masks, hand sanitizer, and basic cooking supplies.
- Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said it wasn't helpful and told them to end violence instead.
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Mexican narcos have been spotted handing out boxes of supplies to poor communities in some cities. The boxes of cooking supplies, masks, and sanitizer are stamped with the cartel logo, according to Reuters.
"These criminal organizations that have been seen distributing the packages, this isn't helpful," President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador recently told reporters from Reuters and elsewhere. "What helps is them stopping their bad deeds."
Lopez Obrador, who has overall taken a less confrontational approach than his predecessors in dealing with cartel violence, has urged the gang members to refrain from harming others and consider the suffering they are causing their own families.
But as Lopez Obrador makes these demands to drug cartels, he has also faced criticism for not doing enough to support residents in need, Reuters reported. Around 42% of the country lives in poverty, according to the World Bank. The country has reported more than 8,000 cases and nearly 700 deaths from the coronavirus — a mortality rate of 8.3%.
Mexico's drug cartels, according to a January report from Mexico's National Search Commission, are responsible for around 61,000 forced disappearances over the last several years, the New York Times reported. In 2019 alone, searches yielded 1,124 bodies in unmarked graves who were killed in cartel-related violence.
Last week reports started circulating that several cartels were deploying members to hand out aid packages.
The daughter of jailed drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was one of the people spotted handing out the packages marked with her father's image.
Falko Ernst, an analyst with the International Crisis Group in Mexico, told The Washington Post that the cartels want to project an image of being helpful in order to gain loyalty. Mexico has a long history of this type of cronyism — the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was able to remain in power for more than 70 years by employing this kind of tactic.
Cartels in Mexico aren't the only armed rebels who have been seen coming to the frontlines of the pandemic. In Afghanistan, the Taliban has dispatched health teams. In Brazil and El Salvador, gangs are enforcing curfews to stem the spread of the coronavirus, according to The Washington Post.
"These groups are trying to be seen as catering materially and providing a notion of security in places where they are also directly preying on the population through extortion and kidnapping and violence," he told The Post. "But in a lot of places, these groups are the least bad solution for populations that don't have anywhere else to turn."