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Italy’s mafia distributes food to struggling residents

Italy’s mafia distributes food to struggling residents

Saad Ali Rana
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As Italy struggles to pull its economy through the coronavirus crisis, the Mafia is gaining local support by distributing free food to poor families in quarantine who have run out of cash, authorities have warned.

In recent weeks, videos have surfaced of known Mafia gangs delivering essential goods to Italians hit hard by the coronavirus emergency across the poorest southern regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia, as tensions rise across the country. Italy’s mafia groups are also poised to snatch up struggling businesses as the country — which is in crisis over the deadly coronavirus pandemic — awaits European funding to boost its battered economy, he said.

“If Europe doesn’t intervene soon the multiplication of mafioso money that’s already in Germany, France, Spain, Holland, Belgium will be unrestrained,” Saviano told journalists on Thursday.

Saviano, best known for his non-fiction book “Gomorrah” about southern Italy’s Camorra clan, is an expert on mafia groups and how they have successfully expanded beyond drugs and other illegal activity to worm their way into otherwise legitimate businesses and sectors across the world.

Criminal organisations trying to gain support

“Mafias are not just criminal organisations,’’ Federico Varese, professor of criminology at the University of Oxford, said. “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.”

The question of distributing food parcels is a tactic as old as the mafia itself, where in the south of Italy bosses have customarily presented themselves to the people as benefactors and local power brokers, initially without asking for anything in return.

“Mafia bosses consider their cities as their own fiefdom,” Gratteri said. “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.”

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