A daughter of famed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and several Mexican cartels have been handing out aid packages to help cash-strapped residents ride out the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a video posted on Facebook, Guzman’s daughter, Alejandrina, can be seen stuffing toilet paper and food into a cardboard box bearing slick logos and a designer stencil-style image of her father, the former Sinaloa cartel chief who is in a maximum security US prison.
The oil, sugar, rice and other items in the boxes, which the video’s narrator calls “Chapo’s provisions,” were distributed in Mexico’s second-largest city, Guadalajara.
Alejandrina Guzman’s handout was linked to her company, which legally markets clothing and alcohol associated with her father’s image under the “El Chapo 701” brand.
However, active members of cartels have also been courting publicity, with images and video on social media showing gang members providing succor to residents.
Famed for brutality, including beheadings and dissolving victims in vats of sulfuric acid, the cartels also have a history of trying to win over the hearts and minds of impoverished communities where they operate.
The Mexican economy has been battered by the pandemic and many are struggling to make ends meet as the nation heads into its harshest recession in living memory.
A witness on Thursday visited an “El Chapo 701” warehouse, which was stacked with boxes to be distributed around Guadalajara. Some workers wore masks bearing the El Chapo image.
The “El Chapo 701” brand gets its name from a Forbes listing in 2009 that ranked him the 701st richest person in the world. The magazine estimated the value of his assets at US$1 billion at the time.
“We are working and contributing. A great pleasure to visit your homes and give you these Chapo handouts,” said a post on Facebook showing Alejandrina Guzman, wearing a black mask bearing El Chapo’s image, handing out parcels.
Joaquin Guzman was extradited to the US in 2017 and found guilty of a host of drug-trafficking charges last year.
Several Mexican cartels are also giving away branded food boxes, often ensuring their members are photographed with the aid recipients.
In a video shared on social media, dozens of people can be seen tussling for packages stamped with the logo of the Jalisco New Generation cartel.
A printed logo on the boxes states: “From your friends, CJNG, COVID-19 contingency support.”
Hooded men in military fatigues can be seen tossing the parcels into a crowd of residents.
In Tamaulipas state, the Gulf Cartel was also distributing aid parcels, images on social media showed.
The Gulf Cartel packages contained rice, beans, oil and tinned food, and were emblazoned with the group’s name and the message: “In support of Victoria City.”
The packets also referred to “Senor 46, Vaquero,” an apparent reference to the cartel’s local leader.
Falko Ernst, an analyst with the International Crisis Group think tank focused on conflict resolution, said the cartels’ propaganda often aimed to distract from the havoc wreaked by their members.
“They’re trying to leverage the perceived absence of the state for their own good and to become deeper entrenched in local communities,” Ernst said.
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