No fewer than 138 persons have died from drinking adulterated alcohol in Mexico.
Following a ban on the sale of liquor during the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 100 Mexicans have died from drinking adulterated alcohol.
Deaths from unsafe alcohol have been reported in at least four states. On Thursday, health officials in the central state of Puebla said the death toll there had reached 51 after a batch of moonshine was tainted with methanol – wood alcohol which can cause blindness and kidney damage.
The deaths in Puebla occurred in several municipalities across the rugged Sierra Madre Oriental mountains, a region where “moonshining is kind of a sport”, said Rodolfo Soriano-Núñez, a sociologist who has worked in the region.
At least 17 people died in the corn-farming village of Chiconcuautla after consuming cheap home-brewed liquor on Mother’s Day, according to the municipal government and a local official.
The drink – known as “refino”, made from sugarcane – is thought to have originated in the neighbouring community of Zacatlán, which is famed for its cider. No arrests have been made.
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.
“We presume that because of a shortage and a very high demand, some people are trying to sell methanol,” said Denis Santiago Hernández, director of sanitary risks in western Jalisco state.
At least seven people died earlier this month in the southern state of Yucatán after drinking an unidentified liquor. “It smelled of alcohol, but it was really dirty, sort of a yellowish colour,” 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.
Much of Mexico has also run out of beer after brewing was declared a non-essential activity during the pandemic.
Such is the thirst for beer that 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. The company said, however, that the smoke was caused by routine maintenance and that production was not set to resume.
Mexico has outlined plans to reopen its economy in steps, starting on 18 May in municipalities without serious Covid-19 contagion and 1 June most other parts of the country.