In regions of the globe controlled by organized crime, the gangsters are doing things like enforcing social distancing and making people wear hand sanitizer, the New York Post reports.
“A weak pandemic response from a formal government creates an opportunity for the violent group to earn legitimacy in the eyes of the public,” University of Maryland political scientist Jori Breslawski wrote in The Conversation. “Violent groups often take actions to gain legitimacy in order to gain support from civilians living under their rule as well as potential supporters abroad.”
They may have another, simpler motive, too — keeping their own families safe from the deadly contagion, Breslawski said.
This is how key groups have responded:
Mexican Drug Cartels—The sons of notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman have been threatening those who break Mexico’s lockdown with beatings, the Yucatan Times reported this week.
Iván Archivaldo Guzmán, 36, and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán, 37 – known as “Los Chapitos, or “Little Chapos” — have heavily armed henchmen roaming the streets of the state capital of Sinaloa to enforce a curfew, the paper says.
Italian Mafia—The Mafia has been exploiting Italy’s devastating outbreak to prove it still runs the show — by hiring the newly unemployed workers as foot soldiers, crime experts say.
La Cosa Nostra is also stepping in with its hefty cash supplies to support companies facing bankruptcy, in exchange for part ownership.
Mafioso soldiers have also been handing out food parcels to win over the needy, the BBC said.
MS-13—The gang is enforcing curfews in areas of El Salvador where police often fear to go.
MS-13 leaders also admitted to the San Salvador newspaper El Faro that they were the only ones who could protect their own members — knowing they would not be helped by authorities if they fall sick.