Coronavirus: Latin American crime gangs adapt to pandemic – BBC News

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made an unusual demand on Monday.

He told criminal gangs to stop donating food packages during the coronavirus crisis and instead focus on ending the violence which had left more than 100 people dead the previous day.

… On the afternoon of 7 April, as Colombia experienced its 14th consecutive day under a nationwide quarantine decreed to stem the spread
of coronavirus, a large funeral procession made its way through the working-class suburb of Bello in the city of Medellín.

Hundreds joined the funeral cortège, … to honour Edgar Pérez Hernández… who was also known as “El Oso” (The Bear) was the alleged head of
Medellín’s powerful Niquía-Camacol criminal gang.

“Members of the crowd applauded, and fired their guns into the air,” a local newspaper described the scene.

Gangs try to win hearts and minds

Drug cartels have also responded to the current crisis by trying to win over
the local population. They have set up informal welfare schemes in communities which face economic ruin from the pandemic and which have received little or no help from the authorities.

Among the Mexican
syndicates reported to have handed out food parcels “courtesy” of their bosses are the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, the Gulf Cartel and “Los Viagras”.

The extent to which criminal organisations have
replaced state functions in Brazil in poor neighbourhoods was brought home when then-health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta told local
officials earlier this month to talk with drug lords and gang leaders about how to stop the spread of coronavirus.

…”We have to understand that these are areas where the state is often absent and the ones in charge are drug traffickers,” he said.