Mexico police break up underground parties to enforce Covid rules

Police take part in an operation against clandestine parties and the sale of alcohol in Ecatepec, Mexico, on Dec 18, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

ECATEPEC, MEXICO (AFP) - Police in one suburb of Mexico City are playing cat-and-mouse with revellers at underground parties that flout coronavirus restrictions.

On Friday (Dec 18), for instance, authorities in the town of Ecatepec raided the same house for the third time to break up a party with mask-less people drinking beer and dancing to a DJ.

The festivities, like others held on the sly, had been advertised on social media.

"Do you know how bad the coronavirus is?" an officer asked the host of the party, as guests filed out to the street under the gaze of some 30 police, soldiers, firefighters and members of the National Guard.

As the pandemic rages around the world, Mexico is one of the hardest-hit nations, with more than 117,000 dead and 1.3 million known infections.

Cases are rising sharply.

It is so bad in Mexico City and the neighbouring state of Mexico that on Friday, the mayor suspended all non-essential activities.

And Ecatepec is one of the worst-affected areas in the sprawling metropolis that is Mexico City.

Raids like Friday's have become frequent as Christmas approaches, but they have been staged since the beginning of the pandemic, said Mr Jose Isauro Bautista, the mayor of Ecatepec, who accompanied police on the raid.

He says he has broken up parties with as many as 250 people.

Minutes before police arrived at the house on Friday, the music suddenly stopped. But the murmur of voices made clear something was going on inside.

So did the half-full beer cans being tossed out of the windows.

"Good evening, everyone must leave," the officer said as she knocked on the door.

After getting no answer, she shouted, "We are here with the Civil Guard!"

The host finally opened the door but asked the police not take pictures, and 20 guests filed out in silence.

The officer asked the host if he was aware that parties like this raise the risk of revellers going home and spreading the virus to vulnerable people like the elderly.

The host said nothing.

Before this raid, the same team busted a combination pool hall and taco restaurant that was violating a ban on alcohol sales.

"You should arrest the snitches," a woman without a mask told police.

She was standing under a sign reading: "God bless this business and all of its customers."

A man swore at the local government and put down his taco to line up a billiard shot.

"We get everything," Mr Bautista said, referring to people who say the virus does not pose that much of a risk, or that they can do whatever they want, even if it breaks coronavirus safety rules.

"We try to encourage dialogue," he said.

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