Mexican criminal groups are clearly using the COVID-19 economic downturn and lockdowns to build up political capital by distributing the handouts. But that should not be a shock to anyone. Around the world, criminal groups — from the Japanese Yakuza to the Sicilian mafia to drug lords in Myanmar and Colombia — have behaved that way for decades.
The fact criminal groups do not necessarily seek to topple a government or have an ideology does not mean that they don’t seek to build influence with populations and governments.
But how much political capital Mexican criminal groups can gain from the current health crisis depends on several factors: Most importantly, it depends on how much better the Mexican government provides COVID-19 relief, if at all. It also depends on how Mexican criminal groups balance their provider side with their extortion and violence side.