Rather unsurprisingly, the Mafia is stepping in to help the people, which is a sound investment for them, because if they have the goodwill of the population, then they will be able to function without interference from the local and national law enforcement.
This is going to set back progress against organized crime in Italy by years, if not decades, and their activities will cross borders into the rest of the EU:
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.
“For over a month, shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs have been closed,” Nicola Gratteri, antimafia investigator and head of the prosecutor’s office in Catanzaro, told the Guardian. “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.”
The ramifications of the lockdown in Italy are affecting the estimated 3.3 million people in Italy who work off the books. Of those, more than 1 million live in the south, according to the most recent figures from CGIA Mestre, a Venice-based small business association. There have been reports of small shop owners being pressured to give food for free, while police are patrolling supermarkets in some areas to stop thefts. Videos of people in Sicily protesting against the government’s stalled response, or people beating their fists outside banks in Bari for a €50 (£44) loan are going viral and throwing fuel on the crisis; a fire the mafia is more than willing to stoke.
From the first signals of mounting social unrest, the Italian minister of the interior, Luciana Lamorgese, said ‘‘the mafia could take advantage of the rising poverty, swooping in to recruit people to its organisation’’. Or simply stepping in to distribute free food parcels of pasta, water, flour and milk.
“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.”
This is the bitter fruit of EU mandated austerity.