Yucatán, Mexico 

On May 15, 2020 Yucatán Expat Life, a local news source reported that there have been over 100 deaths from tainted alcohol from black market purchases. Only days ago, on May 13, 2020 the New York Times first broke the story with a headline that read, “At Least 70 Dead in Mexico from drinking Tainted Alcohol”. 

The Times story stated that the deaths began in mid-April and were caused by the consumption of black-market alcohol. In the United States where States ordered the closure of non-essential businesses, liquor stores were deemed essential. In Mexico like other countries around the world liquor stores were determined to be not only non-essential but also a catalyst for the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mexico, like South Africa took the position that selling alcohol would encourage unwanted gatherings and irresponsible behavior from those under the influence. Both South Africa and Mexico have a history of bootleg alcohol production using methanol, a deadly substitute for the consumable ethanol in legal spirits. 

Mezcal Mexico Alcohol sales during COVID
Mezcal alcohol being sold in Mexico. Alcohol demand has remained strong during COVID-19. Increasing the threat of counterfeit and tainted alcohol in Mexico from illicit producers.

The Guardian based in the UK also reported the story about the surge of deaths in Mexico claiming that they learned from authorities that raids on establishments distributing the illegal alcohol have netted the confiscation of 50 gallons of tainted booze. No indication was given about where the raids took place or where exactly the death total numbers are coming from. 

The Guardian cited 20 deaths in Puebla, and reports of deaths in at least 4 other States. The Yucatán Expat Life noted 9 deaths in Yucatán along with 17 deaths in the small farming village of Chiconcuautla on Mother’s Day.

The ban on the sale of Alcohol is a State by State and often a municipality by municipality decision in Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic. Long before the pandemic closures, fake, counterfeit, and tainted liquor has been reported by tourists for years at the all-inclusive resorts frequented by international travelers.  

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. While an association of small merchants warned last year that 36% of all liquor sold in Mexico was either contraband or adulterated in an industry that is controlled by organized crime cartels.  

Methanol #TaintedAlcohol during #COVID-19 lockdown in Mexico claims at least 100 lives. Demand for #Liquor remains strong during Coronavirus increasing illicit and #Counterfeit alcohol production. Click to Tweet

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

A United States State Department travel advisory that was issued for Americans heading to Mexico in 2018 is still in place. The mild advisory was only issued after intense media pressure in reaction to the death of American Abbey Conner. The advisory states, “there have been reports of people falling ill or blacking out from drinking tainted alcohol’. It encourages caution when consuming alcohol in Mexico. 

Beer has also been deemed non-essential in Mexico during the pandemic leading many to worry that there will be a surge in counterfeit beer. 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.

The mission of SafeProof.org is to raise awareness for Fake or Counterfeit alcohol and to keep liquor safe  Report any illicit alcohol activity in Mexico to us using our secure form or by calling (833) SAFE-TIP . SafeProof.org will relay these tips to the U.S. State Department.