Drug Cartels Increase Influence Through Health AidBy Miriam Bello | Tue, 10/26/2021 - 14:54
Drug cartels in Mexico strengthened their presence in some regions of the country through the delivery of humanitarian aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drug cartels are responsible for peaking rates of different types of violence and abuse but they are also known for their social footprint in the communities they come from. Their presence is especially strong in northern regions of Mexico, including Sonora, Sinaloa, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Durango and Coahuila.
Mexico’s leadership void in those states fuels cartel’s influence, whether the area is marginalized or not. For example, the figure of the drug trafficker has some acceptance in Sinaloan society, state where Mexico’s most known narco was born, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, according to a study by the University of the Basque Country. “Historically, these illicit activities have accompanied the development of Sinaloa and helped society,” reads the study. Some communities benefited because drug traffickers built roads, lighting infrastructure and schools. In addition, the production of drugs served at various times as a source of employment for various social groups.
While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their global supply chains, several drug cartels in Mexico took advantage of the void left by the federal government and stepped in to help communities negatively affected by the pandemic, according to the University of San Diego’s “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2021 Special Report.”
The report found that the New Generation Cartel of Jalisco (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG), in the community of El Alcihuatl, Jalisco, commissioned a private hospital for him, his security team and local inhabitants. CJNG members also handed out care packages with pantry items to communities in San Luis Potosi that read: “On behalf of your friends from the CJNG, COVID-19 contingency support.”
Other organized crime groups also provided aid boxes in various parts of the country to gain sympathy and support from local residents, found the study. For instance, in Tamaulipas, “the Gulf Cartel distributed hundreds of labeled aid boxes containing basic foods in Ciudad Victoria and Matamoros.”
By providing COVID-19 kits and asserting their presence in local communities, organized crime groups in Mexico expected to gain local support in areas where they did not have a strong hold, states the study. In addition, organized crime groups are looking to expand their power and legitimacy at the expense of the state’s.