The mysterious deaths in the Dominican Republic reportedly may be linked to illicit alcohol, and it wouldn’t be the first time

marketlan/ShutterstockIllicit alcohol can be incredibly dangerous.

Illicit alcohol can be deadly.

Unregulated booze may be the culprit behind a recent slew of unexplained deaths in the Dominican Republic. The New York Post first reported that Dominican Republic police are investigating the possibility that counterfeit alcohol has poisoned at least seven US tourists in the country over the past year.

If these suspicions around bootleg booze are indeed correct, then these deaths are just the latest example of the fatal impact of illicit alcohol in the Dominican Republic.

In 2017, nine people in the Dominican Republic and neighbouring Haiti died after drinking local alcohol known as “clerén” or “triculi,” a beverage distilled from sugar cane. The alcohol was reportedly traced back to a local business in the Haitian village of Los Cacaos, according to Dominican Today.

The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking released a report estimating that illicit alcohol made up for 29% of total alcohol in the Dominican Republic. But “illicit alcohol” doesn’t simply mean illegally distilled liquor; it can be broken down into several distinct categories.

Read more: Dominican Republic officials are reportedly investigating whether recent tourist deaths were caused by counterfeit alcohol

Informal alcohol, or drinks produced “outside of a regulatory framework and whose production and consumption tend to follow cultural and artisanal practices” could include legal or illegal home brewing operations, according to the IARD.

Contraband alcohol is any beverage that’s illegally smuggled into a country. Counterfeit alcohol is defined as “fraudulent imitations of legitimate branded products,” while non-conforming alcohol encompasses all “products that are not compliant with production processes, guidelines, or labelling legislation.”

In the Dominican Republic, the IARD estimated that illicit alcohol cost the country a total of $US262 million. The Caribbean nation’s black market of alcohol was reported to break down into 69% distilled drinks, 0.1% fermented beverages, and 30% “other” forms of alcohol.

Roughly one third of the country’s illicit alcohol came about due to “tax leakage,” which refers to the practice of skipping out on the excise tax in the jurisdiction of legally produced alcohol beverages. And half of the illicit alcohol referred to contraband drinks.

In April, the Dominican Rum Producers Association advocated to curtail the alcohol in the country’s black market.

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