The Mafia could be one of the only employers left in Italy as many businesses have been forced to shut down.
As the lockdown in Italy has now extended into its second month, unemployment and poverty have started to manifest into social unrest.
The government of Italy has done very little to help the people in the country who are struggling, but in some areas the Mafia has stepped up to help and deliver food to poor families in quarantine who have run out of money.
However, instead of thanking them for helping out the government has opened an investigation into the group’s recent charitable operation. Nicola Gratteri, anti-mafia investigator and head of the prosecutor’s office in Catanzaro, told the Guardian that he fears the Mafia could somehow “gain control over people’s lives” by offering them food in a time of need.
“For over a month, shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs have been closed. Millions of people work in the grey economy, which means that they haven’t received any income in more than a month and have no idea when they might return to work. The government is issuing so-called shopping vouchers to support people. If the state doesn’t step in soon to help these families, the Mafia will provide its services, imposing their control over people’s lives,” Gratteri said.
Officials have expressed concern that the Mafia could be one of the only employers left in the country as many businesses have been forced to shut down after weeks of inactivity. Some of these businesses may never be able to reopen.
The Italian minister of the interior, Luciana Lamorgese warned, ‘‘The Mafia could take advantage of the rising poverty, swooping in to recruit people to its organization.’
Oddly enough, in their warnings about the dangers of Mafia influence officials and prosecutors have done a good job illustrating some of the alarming similarities between gangs and governments, as well as the close relationship between the two.
“Mafia bosses consider their cities as their own fiefdom. 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,” Gratteri said.
It is true that criminal organizations use philanthropy as a way to gain influence and win public opinion, and the same can be said for corporations and governments.
Last Year, Italy began a very limited Universal Basic Income program, which in reality was more of an unemployment program that included some low wage workers. Many applications were rejected, and the qualifications excluded many of the people who needed it the most.
A stimulus plan in response to the economic downturn was announced last month by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, but there has been no relief on the ground for the country’s poorest residents.