Mafia Distributes Food and Essentials to Italy’s Poor During Coronavirus Lockdown

Italy is in a country-wide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it has been affecting its residents, especially the poor. 

The Guardian reports videos of Italian Mafia distributing food and basic needs to the poorest neighborhoods in the country, specifically those in the southern region like Campania, Calabria, Sicily, and Puglia

Italy was once the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic and has reported 152,272 confirmed cases with 19,468 deaths. With the coronavirus surrounding the whole country, there was no other choice but to put everyone and everything on lockdown. Shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants have been closed for a month, which led to millions of Italians working in the “grey economy.” Meaning millions of these workers haven’t received any form of income for over a month, making it difficult for them to get by with their day-to-day needs. 

“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,” Nicola Gratteri, an anti-mafia investigator explained. 

While it is true that the Italian Mafia has been giving out free food to struggling residents, it doesn’t mean that they are doing it from the heart. In fact, the act of handing out help to the poor has been one of the oldest tactics of the mafia bosses in Italy. So there have been speculations that the Mafia is only doing this to gain “local support” and recruit more people to join their organization. 

Frederico Varese, a professor in criminology at the University of Oxford, suggests that mafias “aspire to govern territories and markets,” and they do it by establishing a strong “local base.” Mafia bosses know when to act, and they are acting now. They are taking advantage of the situation in the country, and as Gratteri explained, “in the people’s eyes, a boss who knocks on the door offering free food is a hero.”

Varese also warns that these are not gifts from the Mafia, but rather they are “favors that everyone will have to pay back in some form or another, by aiding and abetting a fugitive, holding a gun, dealing drugs and the like.”