MEXICO CITY — At least 70 people have died across Mexico since late April after drinking tainted alcohol, including at least 20 residents of a poor mountain town in the central state Puebla who consumed a cheap, popular moonshine.
Mexican officials said the rash of deaths, coming as the nation struggles to contend with the coronavirus pandemic, might be related to the imposition of dry laws and other measures meant to combat the spread of the virus.
As the outbreak has worsened in Mexico, some local and state governments have banned the sale of alcohol to discourage people from gathering in groups or having parties, activities that could further spread the virus.
In addition, the federal government has declared breweries as nonessential businesses, forcing them to shut down and leading to widespread beer shortages.
These restrictions, officials say, may have driven more people than usual to buy alcohol on the black market.
“It’s possible to begin to speculate that with a smaller supply of regulated alcohol, there’s a larger supply of unregulated alcohol,” said Gady Zabicky Sirot, director of the National Commission Against Addictions in Mexico.
The country has a robust illegal trade in alcoholic beverages that has either been unlawfully adulterated or produced under unregulated conditions, and people in Mexico occasionally become ill, with some dying, from drinking tainted alcohol.
“This is something that happens more or less periodically,” Mr. Zabicky said.
The U.S. State Department warns travelers heading to Mexico to be alert to the possibility of inadvertently consuming illegal alcohol. “There have been reports of individuals falling ill or blacking out after consuming unregulated alcohol,” the advisory says.
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