Mexico president tells gangs to stop handing out coronavirus aid

President Lopez Obrador called on gangs to stop distributing food and asked them to end violence instead.

    Mexico president tells gangs to stop handing out coronavirus aid
    Employees of the clothing brand El Chapo 701, owned by Alejandrina Guzman, fill boxes with products to be handed out to elderly people [Fernando Carranza/Reuters]

    Mexico's president has acknowledged that drug cartels have been handing out care packages during the coronavirus pandemic, urging them to end violence instead of distributing food. 

    Imploring criminals to behave better, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador declared on Monday that the care packages filled with basic foodstuffs and cleaning supplies were not helpful.

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    "These criminal organisations that have been seen distributing the packages, this isn't helpful. What helps is them stopping their bad deeds," he told reporters at a news conference.

    The left-wing president, who has advocated a less confrontational approach than his predecessors in taming raging cartel violence, said gang members should refrain from harming others and instead think of the suffering they cause to their own families and the mothers of their victims.

    Videos posted on social media last week showed one of the daughters of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Alejandrina, handing out boxes of rice, pasta, cooking oil and toilet paper with Guzman's image printed on them under El Chapo's 701 brand, a company founded by her. 

    "We are working and contributing. A great pleasure to visit your homes and give you these Chapo handouts," said a post on the company's Facebook page, that was later removed, showing Alejandrina, wearing a black face mask with Chapo's face, handing out parcels.

    Beyond the Guzman-linked Sinaloa cartel, other gangs have similarly courted publicity with care packages for mostly poor residents, including the Jalisco New Generation and Los Durango cartels.

    Photos posted on social media on Monday showed heavily armed members from both handing out packages including toilet paper and shampoo.

    In the case of Alejandrina, while El Chapo's son is said to have taken over some criminal operations, there is no indication that El Chapo 701 is involved in illegal activity.

    Translation: They distribute food pantries in the name of 'Chapo' Guzman to seniors in Mexico.

    According to Alejandrina Guzman, daughter of the former leader of the Sinaloa cartel, the aid is financed by the profits of her own company Chapo 701, news agency Telemundo tweeted last week. 

    Sharp criticism 

    Mexico notched a homicide record of 34,582 dead during Lopez Obrador's first full year in office in 2019, as the president advocated for more social spending to address the root causes of crime.

    Lopez Obrador, meanwhile, has come under sharp criticism for not advocating more financial support for companies or jobless workers.

    Over the past month, the country's economy has dramatically slowed due to coronavirus containment measures.

    To date, there are more than 8,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as well as nearly 700 deaths attributed to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies