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Ban triggers over 100 deaths in Mexico from tainted alcohol

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Liquor sales are banned in Yucatan until at least the end of May. Photo: Sipse

The nine deaths in Yucatan caused by bootleg alcohol are part of a nationwide trend triggered by dry laws across Mexico.

More than 100 Mexicans have perished over the past month in a string of mass poisonings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The restrictions, meant to encourage level heads during the coronavirus crisis, may have driven more people than usual to buy alcohol on the black market.

Deaths from unsafe alcohol have been reported in at least four states, reports the Guardian, a London-based news organization. On Thursday, health officials in Puebla said the death toll there had reached 51 after a batch of moonshine was tainted with methanol, a wood alcohol that causes blindness and kidney damage.

At least 17 people died on Mother’s Day in the farming village of Chiconcuautla after consuming refino, a cheap home-brewed liquor, according to local officials.

Liquor sales have been banned in some states and municipalities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, provoking a rampant black market for bootleg alcohol.

The Guardian also made international news of the Yucatan fatalities, connected to an unidentified liquor that “smelled of alcohol, but it was really dirty, sort of a yellowish color,” as a survivor told Televisa.

Mexico’s consumer watchdog has issued repeated warnings over the dangers of adulterated alcohol, which is often peddled in nightclubs and tourist spots with all-you-can-drink promotions. An association of small merchants warned last year that 36% of all liquor sold in the country was either contraband or adulterated.

“It’s possible to begin to speculate that with a smaller supply of regulated alcohol, there’s a larger supply of unregulated alcohol,” said Gady Zabicky Sirot, director of the National Commission Against Addictions in Mexico.

Much of Mexico has also run out of beer after breweries were declared non-essential during the pandemic. A recent sighting of white smoke billowing from the Modelo brewery in Mexico City prompted a wave of speculation that the beer drought might soon be over.

But the smoke was caused only by routine maintenance, Modelo said.

Mexico has outlined plans to reopen its economy starting Monday in municipalities without serious coronavirus contagion and gradually beginning June 1 in most other parts of the country.

Sources: New York Times, Observer

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