Yesterday, Ecuadorian officials instituted a ban on alcohol after a reported 21 people died in Los Ríos and many more victims across the country were admitted to the hospital with severe symptoms. According to medical experts, these deaths were a result of the consumption of methanol, a type of alcohol that was present in the unlabeled alcohol that was being consumed in that community. Selling alcohol without a label exemplifies an almost poor existence of system regulation and a lack of accountability for producers and distributors. As a result, consumers are forced to bear the brunt of the lack of restrictions and implementation by the government. Those in relatively poor and typically rural areas are most vulnerable to subjection to this burden because standards of living are already low; therefore, oversight is less intense, if present at all. In an attempt to reverse the social disintegration that was illuminated as a result of the alcohol poisoning events, local authorities moved a “state of exemption” to ban the consumption of alcohol throughout the nation. The 72-hour temporary ban is an attempt to give authorities the ability to locate the bootleg alcohol and hopefully minimize the number of people who consume the poisonous methanol, which is not intended for human consumption. So far, police have arrested only the seller of the liquor; however, investigations are expected to continue. Hopefully, the involvement of the government in health and safety issues such as this will continue beyond this isolated incident, although this is by no means guaranteed.
This update was prepared by COHA Research Associate Rebecca Gorn