REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – After initially targeting breweries for closure, deeming them “non-essential businesses”, the government is apparently reversing its course.
An article appearing in Mexican newspaper “El Universal” bears the headline:
“Green light is given to reactivate the production of beer in Mexico,” noting that some of the principal producers of beer in Mexico had already restored operations as early as this past Thursday, but with only 25 percent of plant employees still working.
According to the article, the Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development approved the return of beer production, documenting the action in a letter to the chamber of commerce that represents the beer and malt-growing industries. It is an industry that supports 15,000 families and 150,000 hectares (about 370,658 acres) per year.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known by the acronym AMLO, expressed his doubts about the efficacy and wisdom of temporary and/or indefinite ‘’dry laws” or alcohol sales prohibitions that have appeared in different states of Mexico during the past week:
“Panic-buying of beer and other beverages forces people to crowd, contrary to the principle of keeping a safe distance, all of this needs to be addressed and resolved,’’ quipped the president, acknowledging crowds of people at stores and alcohol distribution points throughout the country.
Several Mexican states have enforced temporary or indefinite bans on the sale of alcohol, particularly during Holy Week in Mexico which started last Thursday and extended through Easter Sunday. Sonora and Campeche have limited buying times in effect, while the state of Tabasco has an indefinite alcohol sales ban in effect. Some states have tried to close liquor stores without success.
Uzi Ramos, a Reynosa native living in Puerto Vallarta had this to say: “Two days ago, the municipal police showed up at a local beer place, telling the people to go home. They tried to get the place to close. They (the owners) said no and the cops left. I guess the people or the cartel, whatever, still have the power here.”
Ramos also shared photographs of a local swimming hole across from his house that was full of swimmers.
“The cops came and told us to leave. We did, that day. Most stayed. Natives, I guess, don’t take any guff from the cops,” he said flatly.
U.S. expat, Dallas Autery, a resident of Mazatlán, Sinaloa and married to a local, is relieved by the change in government policy.
“The industry just provides so many jobs. I guess they got pressure from the breweries. Works for me. I’m glad all those people get to keep working,” said Autery, whose Mexican family members are in the local tourist industry now stalled by the COVID-19 outbreak and the sanitary measures being put in place.
In Guadalajara, Jalisco, Olga Gallardo, a distributor of beauty products who has gone digital in the last few weeks, in order to survive, added this account about local alcohol sales:
“The streets of Guadalajara are empty. The few people on the streets have facial covering. The establishments that sell or distribute alcohol are all closed. Not even gift shops are open. Friends who wanted to travel to beach resorts during Holy Week were told that the hotels and beaches were all closed to them.”
In Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, opera singer and voice coach, Dora Rangel, an ardent proponent of social distancing, staying at home, and adherence to recommended measures, added this to the discussion:
“Most establishments serving alcohol have closed. There are still some that continue to operate. The government, (state and local) has not exercised its authority to control people’s behavior. Thus, some follow protocols, and some don’t. It’s up to their conscience.” She went on to say that there was not really any police or health authority with the power to enforce the measures.
The multi-billion dollar beer industry provides jobs for thousands of people in Mexico, from restaurant and bar operators, truck drivers, the brewery workers, not to mention farmers and farm labor. Mexican brands such as Corona, Bohemia, Carta Blanca and Dos Equis are internationally popular. A return to production has been well-received by political and business leaders, even while health authorities fear the consequences of the rapidly spreading virus.
The number of COVID-19 cases reported in Mexico now stands at 3,844, with another 2,188 suspected cases as of April 10, 2020. The real figure might really be around 26,000, according to Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez Gastell, who fears many more may have the virus but have not yet developed symptoms. Many more may not have been diagnosed, yet, believes Lopez.