MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s president chastised drug gangs on Monday, telling them to end violence instead of distributing food, after several reports across the country in recent days showed armed narcos handing out care packages stamped with cartel logos.
Imploring criminals to behave better, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador declared that the care packages filled with basic foodstuffs and cleaning supplies are not helpful.
“These criminal organizations 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 leftist president, who has advocated a less confrontational approach than his predecessors to 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.
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.
Last week, reports first circulated of several Mexican cartels deploying members to dole out aid packages to help cash-strapped residents ride out the coronavirus pandemic.
A daughter of jailed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was among those spotted handing out the packages stamped with her own company’s “El Chapo 701” logo, which includes the image of her infamous father.
The boxes included cooking oil, rice, sugar and other items were distributed in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-biggest city.
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.
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.
Reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez and Daina Beth Soloman in Mexico City; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Matthew Lewis