Mexico police investigate store robberies as virus spreads


David Vazquez, a street performer dressed as the Joker, waits in hopes of pedestrians who will pay to take pictures with him in Mexico City, Monday, March 23, 2020. Vazquez, who also worked as a trainer in a gym until it shut down today, said business for street performers has plummeted, with the few clients still stopping opting to take their pictures from a distance or posing beside him awkwardly, amid the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus. “We have to pay rent, light, gas, telephone,” said Vazquez. “Where will we get that money? We all want to work.” (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican authorities in multiple states are investigating a spate of robberies and lootings at large stores that may be connected to incitement circulating on social networks as the country’s coronavirus caseload grows.

On Wednesday, Mexico City police reported four robberies in different parts of the capital overnight. In a statement, police said that many false reports of lootings were being posted on social media, leading others to emulate them.

Dozens of people looted a grocery store in Mexico State on Monday and overnight men broke into a large box store in the southern state of Oaxaca, smashing its large front windows. Police there said they were being extra vigilant during the health emergency.

Some of the postings urge people to sack box, grocery and department stores to take food and necessary supplies related to the coronavirus outbreak. They provide a list of stores and even a time to gather.

But the robberies don’t seem to really be driven by the necessity of essentials. Authorities have reported people stealing cell phones and other electronics, as well as clothing.

While Mexico is encouraging people to stay at home, the federal government is not enforcing it. Some state and local governments have imposed curfews.

On Wednesday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said such criminal acts would not be tolerated. He said, “they’re confronting it and they will continue to confront it.”

Mexico has 405 confirmed cases of the virus and five people have died.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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