New videos that were posted online showed pickup trucks handing out gifts to people of Mexico while bystanders described the drivers as part of the Jalisco drug cartel. Following this, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador appealed to the country’s citizens on Tuesday to reject holiday gifts and handouts from drug gangs.

Obrador said that some of the drug gangs were looking to resume such giveaways that were often seen years ago, to gain the local population's support, reported the Associated Press. In his morning press briefing, Obrador said that local residents in some communities have tried to protect traffickers or stop drug seizures. They have also tried to oppose the installation of National Guard bases that are intended to fight drug trafficking.

Mexican authorities are yet to confirm the source of the gifts, which were mostly toys, in the Dec. 21 handout in a low-income neighborhood in Guadalajara, which is the capital of Jalisco state. Before Christmas, many trucks carrying inflatable Santa Claus decorations and festive lights drove through the neighborhood. “Narco corrido” songs were also played by the truck drivers. The songs praised the Jalisco cartel and a local leader of the gang. He is known by the alias RR.

According to The Washington Post, a bystander in one video could be heard saying, “All RR’s people." Then the person asked who says that they don’t give you anything, and "why doesn’t the government do the same?”

When Obrador was asked about the videos on Tuesday, he conceded that the practice was re-emerging. In the 2010s, such drug gangs' Christmas gift rounds were common in the northern border state of Tamaulipas. Obrador said that it was part of a strategy by criminal gangs to win support of the public. The President said that since the beginning of his administration, they knew, it was obvious, "it was public record, that criminal gangs were relying a lot on social bases, on people in the communities." He claimed that the gangs use "the people as (human) shields.” He noted that lately, some of the criminal groups are trying to revive this gift-giving method by "getting people to support them."

The President shared that when there is a "cocaine seizure, communities come out and defend the traffickers." They even try to kidnap members of the Army and (National) Guard, to "prevent the seizure of the cocaine.”

Residents in three states of Mexico have also held protests against the construction of barracks for the National Guard, as per NBC Los Angeles. The President attributed what he described as “three or four cases” of opposition from locals to cartel influence. But in the case of protests in Mexico City, people said that they view the barracks as unnecessary. They thought they were environmentally damaging or likely to increase violence in the neighborhood.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
March in support of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in Mexico City. Photo by: Reuters/Toya Sarno Jordan

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