As Italy comes to terms with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, an unlikely line of support has come from the Italian Mafia.
However, experts are warning their true intentions may not be as neighbourly as they first appear.
Italy has been one of the hardest hit countries by the pandemic, having detrimental effects on the economy and leaving many struggling to afford day-to-day necessities.
According to reports, it’s thought more than three million Italians work cash in hand and ‘off the books’ – also known as the ‘grey economy’ – leaving them unlikely to receive government funding during these unprecedented times.
One million of those workers are thought to be based in southern regions of Italy, where the Mafia is most prominent. With this in mind, experts believe the Mafia will be looking to recruit those out of work, and are reaching out by providing food parcels to them, The Guardian reports.
Italian minister of the interior Luciana Lamorges warned: ‘The mafia could take advantage of the rising poverty, swooping in to recruit people to its organisation.’
Mafia members have allegedly been spotted in Naples and Palermo in recent days giving food parcels to those in need, while there have also been reports of Mafia members apparently doing rounds in Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia as well.
Federico Varese, professor of criminology at the University of Oxford, commented on how Mafias ‘are not just criminal organisations’.
They are organisations that aspire to govern territories and markets. Commentators often focus on the financial aspect of mafias but they tend to forget that their strength comes from having a local base from which to operate.
These handouts by the mafias are not gifts. The mafia does not do anything out of its kind heart. They are favours that everyone will have to pay back in some form or another, by aiding and abetting a fugitive, holding a gun, dealing drugs and the like.
Nicola Gratteri, antimafia investigator and head of the prosecutor’s office in Catanzaro, told The Guardian the Mafia see their cities are their own ‘fiefdom’ and therefore believe they control that territory.
The bosses know very well that in order to govern, they need to take care of the people in their territory. And they do it by exploiting the situation to their advantage. In the people’s eyes, a boss who knocks on the door offering free food is a hero. And the boss knows that he can then count on the support of these families when necessary, when, for example, the mafia sponsors a politician for election who will further their criminal interests.
Consider what happened to El Chapo, the Mexican narco. He trafficked tons of cocaine and commissioned the murder of hundreds of people but in his hometown he was known for his benevolence, because people said that he provided medicines to families or built roads. The same thing happens here.
So, while the Mafia’s charity may seem to have good intentions behind it, from what experts have said, Italian residents receiving the help should be wary of the consequences.
It’s okay to not panic about everything going on in the world right now. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization, click here.
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