An Insight into the activities of organised crime and the most advanced capitalist group’s, all around the world during the coronavirus pandemic.
This pandemic is a great opportunity for the Mafia to do business and make deals. Wagering on the needs of people is the art of profits and The mafia is the master of this art. They never disappear and nor go under lockdown. So what is happening to criminal organisations in this pandemic period?
In Michoacan, Mexico, members of the local cartel distribute packages of food to crowds, whilst holding guns in their hands, claiming that they are the bosses of the territory. Yet, in Sinaloa, Mexico, packages of food and masks are distributed with the logo of the famous boss El Chapo printed on them. Meanwhile, In Brazil, the government of Bolsonaro has still not implemented lockdown measures; drug traffickers themselves have organised severe quarantine limits in the neighbourhoods they pretend to command, with claims such as “Whoever is caught on the street will learn how to respect the measure. We want the best for the population. If the government is unable to manage, organised crime resolves”. In South Africa, where the lockdown is very strict, local gangs have stopped fighting and are using their own network of drug dealers to distribute essential goods but also to make money on alcohol and cigarettes, in which sales are prohibited by the quarantine measures. The same phenomenon is also happening in other countries such as Japan, where the Yakuza is distributing free masks and toilet paper and, of course, Italy. We could call all of this “measures of criminal welfare” which are carried out by Cosa Nostra in Palermo, where they have dedicated themselves to the distribution of food boxes in the difficult district of Zen, or in Naples, where the Camorra has also frozen the collection of debts and the so-called “Pizzo” (protection money), focusing primarily on aid measures.
If we think of Italy, in recent years, the Mafia has invested in many enterprises and sectors that have now become fundamental, and will be for a long time, like: transport, food distribution, cleaning and disinfection enterprises, and in the health care sector. Italian police have already started to warn people about the interest of clans, investing in the production and distribution of kits made up of basic items, such as; masks, sanitisers and latex gloves, things that are very much needed right now, but at the same time difficult to find. Such businesses are not the only deals that the pandemic brings to the Mafia, indeed, most of the “crime fighters” are now engaged in counter-acting Covid-19, so they are monitoring harbours less, making it a lot easier for clans to lead their drug trades without much trouble.
Socially, the pandemic is the ideal occasion for mafias to thrive and grow their popular consensus. The reason is simple and natural: when you are hungry, it doesn’t matter who helps you, as long as you survive. Many people have lost their jobs and therefore basic needs are becoming difficult to sustain. Of course, many voluntary associations, churches and wealthy families, are doing their best to help those in need, especially in Naples, where an unprecedented network of solidarity has formed. However, by default, resources are limited, and these voluntary associations cannot help everyone. It is at this point that the Mafia comes in, appearing as “lifesaver’s”. The places where the network of solidarity fails to reach, are easily reachable by Mafias. They not only help people, they enlarge the consensus among them, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises with cash, a resource they do not lack. However, it is important to remember that everything the Mafia does is not for free and in the future they will claim something back.
As Federico Varese, professor of criminology at the University of Oxford said “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.” For this reason, it is necessary not to leave lone districts at risk, otherwise in the end the Mafia will be the ones to lay down the law, quite literally. The main help must come from the state, which has the duty to demonstrate its presence in those areas. It is natural that we are all engaged in the Covid-19 emergency, but we must always remember that such realities exist and we believe it is important not to ignore them.
by Camilla Pasquali
and Gaia Checcarelli