Since mid-July, 50 people have died in Ecuador after drinking homemade booze chock-full of toxic methanol.
The stuff looks legitimate. Some is even sold as wine. It’s fruit-flavored and sold in paper cartons or plastic bags.
But its all made in a shady factory on the coast that doesn’t have a license to sell anything — and certainly not anything you should eat or drink.
For awhile, the government banned the booze.
But it turned out that shops just hid the stuff under the counter, unwilling to lose money on products they had already purchased to stock their shelves. When the law was gone, they put it back up again.
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So now the government is trying to buy it back. It's also starting a campaign with signs that read, "Don't become a killer," asking people not to share or sell the banned products.
Part of the problem is that Ecuadoreans are used to drinking homemade alcohol, which is made with no testing, and no standards, and derived from sugarcane.
It’s cheaper than the legal stuff. And it gets you really drunk.
But it can also make you go blind, put you in a coma, or end your life entirely.
This happens in a lot of countries where the average person lives day-to-day and can’t afford the three or four dollars that regulated, legal alcohol costs.
Especially when they like to drink a lot.
So they head to their local pub, where someone’s mixed booze in the back with whatever ingredients they have on hand... and hope for the best.