In 2007, the fugitive mafia leader Daniele Emmanuello was woken up by Italian special agents surrounding his house near the town Villarosa, Sicily. He tried to run, jumped out of the window of his residence, and fled. Unfortunately for him, the agents opened fire. Daniele Emmanuello succumbed to shot wounds in the chest and neck. The Sicilian mafia –known as the Cosa Nostra– had been decapitated.
Imagine hiding all your life, being cautious all the time and never being able to trust anyone. It’s a life few would envy. Yet it’s reality for the wanted mafia members that are still running for the government. Some have been hiding for justice for over ten years. It’s not the most appealing side of a mafia career. The Sicilian Cosa Nostra has a hard time recruiting reliable members, because every month or so, the police arrests another “man of honor”, or a local mafia leader dies violently. The main “source” of new members remains the bloodline of the families. Young people who aren’t accustomed to that world often chose for a safer job.
Although the Sicilian mafia is the most known of all mafia families, many others exist. Another influential and big family is the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate, centered in Calabria, in the south of Italy. Its main source of income is drug trafficking, and is one of the biggest criminal organizations in the world. Its net income was over 40 billion Euros (over 50 billion dollars) in 2007.
The oldest organization is the Camorra organization, founded back in the seventeenth century. A big difference with other crime syndicates is that this one consists of multiple families operating under the label “Camorra”. Its region of operation is mainly around Naples (Campania region), but the organization has international branches. In recent news the Camorra mafia is perhaps most known for its handling of garbage disposal. The city of Naples had no official means of garbage disposal, so the Camorra families created a cartel that now handles it. Its sources of money are dubious, but it’s very hard for the authorities to counter this structure.
Scarface, the Model
The Camorra families mainly recruit their new members around Naples, where the city is plagued with many gangs with young members. The families select their members carefully, and when they’re no longer needed, they dispose of them easily by sending them on a very dangerous mission. Belonging to the Camorra is considered “cool” in some gangs, as the youth watches films like Scarface, where Cuban gangster Tony Montana rises to the top of the underworld. Too bad this “hero” ends like Daniele Emmanuello: face-down in a pool of blood. And yet this doesn’t scare the Napolitan youngsters. For them, it’s considered the way things should go: rising to the top, but paying for it with your life.
Roberto Saviano, Italian journalist and writer, infiltrated the Camorra and wrote a book about his experiences in 2006. Gomorrah was a bestseller, but Saviano’s life would never be the same again: today still, he’s moving from one place to another with a permanent police escort in an armored vehicle.
The Hollywood Effect
Hollywood has always been shaping the image of the mafia, with films like The Godfather. Mafia members even imitate certain scenes from mafia movies to feel more powerful and important. But reality is far from the depiction of Hollywood: the Sicilian mafia culture doesn’t resemble the lifestyle portrayed by The Godfather.
Becoming the second Don Corleone isn’t the main reason many (south-) Italian boys edge towards the mafia. Sometimes it’s due to bad economic conditions that they apply for a Mafioso existence. Campania has always been a relatively poor area. Especially in times of economic crisis like now, unemployment rates are high, so many young people can’t find a proper job. That’s why the Camorra can be considered as the biggest employer in Campania. And they’re paying well, comparing to “normal” jobs. And they’re paying right into the pocket, in cash. Another reason is the declining living standard, which makes a social status something very important. A status one can get by working up in the Camorra.
Whether the youngster’s parents are accepting their beloved son or daughter’s occupation is doubtful. On the one hand the inhabitants dislike the Camorra violence, on the other hand they also dislike the corrupt and lying local politicians.
Everything for the Family
The biggest Italian crime syndicate, the ‘Ndrangheta, still operates under a code of conduct. The base of the organization is the blood family, which makes the syndicate harder to infiltrate. Members of the family would never talk and betray their own kin. That’s why the ‘Ndrangheta has the least information leaks, traitors and infiltrators. Perhaps the decline of the Cosa Nostra is due to the fact that their blood ties are less tight.
Because the family is this important in the ‘Ndrangheta, a steady flow of new members is delivered: every ‘Ndrangheta mafia family has a father, mother and usually 4 to 7 children. Two thirds of the Calabrian mafia families still exist after 25 years, so this strategy works very well.
For now, the end of the Italian mafia families isn’t near yet. Violence however is declining, although there’s always a possibility of bloody conflicts, especially in Campania where conflicts between clans usually end up in a lot of blood. But although every week Mafiosi die or get arrested, there’s always a new eager member to follow them in their footsteps.
By coremelter for InfoBarrel.com.