All posts by slott

The Italian Govt. aka The Sicilian Mafia

The Sicilian Mafia or Cosa Nostra is a gang that acts as a government within Italy. The Mafia started because of entrepreneurs who leased farmlands from aristocrats and would hire guards to protect their property. They really got their foothold in 1861 during the unification of Italy and the economic crisis. The Italian state was trying to find a way to control the government in Sicily which they knew very little about, and they relied on the Mafia. Nowadays even though they have been weakened they still control much of the drug trade into Europe partnering with several other drug cartels, with their main business being trafficking heroin. They have an estimated 25,000 members in total and 250,000 worldwide affiliates according to the FBI. They’ve also been taking advantage of the incoming migrants, which has become a crisis in Italy, by demanding bribes and payments from state-funded migrant shelters.
The Sicilian Mafia is split into different families that control areas or districts. These families are put into a hierarchical system in which each family has a head and appoints different people to power beneath them. The head is a boss who is helped by a deputy and sometimes up three trusted counselors. Under the deputy there are smaller bosses who command groups of roughly 10 soldiers although depending on the size of the family that number can change. The boss is usually elected on a yearly basis although sometimes violent successions do happen. According to informants and historians while some clans have influence over nearby clans there is no one person who commands the whole organization. They do have commissions, one for each province in Italy, from which clans in each region all elect a representative, these manage the violence between clans as well as issues of succession.
The biggest function of the Mafia does is how it got its start, protection. In areas of Sicily where the police and government cannot be trusted, the Mafia provide that trust. They mediate disagreements between criminals and even protect shop owners from thieves. Although many people are forced to pay protection in return for little actual protection others actively seek out protection from the Mafia. In 2008 an estimated 70 percent of stores paid the mafia protection money, either willingly or forcibly. This protection ranged from about $250 to $6,000. They also often enforce collusion, such as the garbage industry. They also provide this protection to smuggling gangs, acting as a trusted entity to help gain investors and to make sure the smugglers act safely. Because of their influence, during election years political candidates will try and appeal to the Mafia. There are 945 seats in the Italian parliament so if a candidate has the support of their local Mafia that alone can decide an election.
In 1995 it is believed Bernardo Provenzano took over leadership of the Mafia. Under him murders of state officials and informants significantly decreased as did defectors. The ‘Ndrangheta assumed most of the cocaine trade in Europe from the weakened Mafia in the late 1990’s. He was arrested in 2006 and is believed to have been succeeded by Messina Denaro. In 2012 it was reported that they had teamed up with several Mexican drug cartels. In late 2017 and early 2018 many arrests of mafia members and associated politicians were made on the grounds of mafia association, drug trafficking, extortion, fraud and vote buying.
There is a growing opposition to the “pizzo” or forced protection money called “Addiopizzo” which began in 2004. There are now 1,000 member businesses who advertise that they do not pay the Mafia. Many of these business owners have also testified in 27 separate trials against extortionists. And according to the Addiopizzo’s cofounder people are beginning to “openly questioning such extortion”. They also provide legal, and social support from Mafia retribution to those willing to name extortionists in court. This is having an impact on the Mafia, one of the members was recorded in jail saying that due to Addiopizzo there are fewer young recruits and the amount of businesses not paying protection money is putting a dent in the Mafia’s income.
The Sicilian Mafia is a gang that acts as a government within Sicily, but in recent years their power has decreased due to other gangs and anti-mafia movements.

Duterte: High on Power?

I’d be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have (me). You know my victims, I would like (them) to be all criminals, to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.“This is not what one expects to hear from a democratically elected ruler, yet that is Rodrigo Duterte, the elected president of the Philippines. That quote surprisingly and perfectly illustrates why he was elected, not the killing of millions of people, but the reason he wants them killed. Drugs.

Duterte’s main platform for election and his focus since his first day as president has been the war on drugs. He blames many of the problems that Filipinos have on drugs, and as one can clearly see from his career as mayor of Davos and as president he has no problem going outside of the law as long as it ends with drug users, dealers and pushers dead or behind bars. But he has faced criticism for this. As he said in his inauguration speech; “I know that there are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality, the sale and use of illegal drugs and corruption. They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal”. Since he was mayor these he has been in support of extrajudicial killings. People have been murdered without trial for being even suspected of dealing, using or pushing drugs. He has been admitted to taking part in these killings himself; “I killed about three of them… I don’t know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies. It happened and I cannot lie about it.” Since taking office more than 9,000 people have been killed in this drug war. But despite this carnage his policy remains somewhat popular.

It is difficult to be certain about Duterte’s popularity in the Philippines because although many people cite his popularity rating as the highest in decades they have only had five previous presidents to compare to, and his ratings have usually been only a few points higher than his predecessors. Although the approval rating for his war on drugs is high the percent of people concerned about his extrajudicial mass killings is higher. With 84% saying they were satisfied with his war on drugs and 94% expressed concern over killing suspects rather than giving them a proper trial. Even though he is an elected leader he did not win a majority of the votes. In the Philippines the person who has the most votes wins the election regardless of whether or not they have a majority. Dutere got 38.5% of the vote.

There are many things other than murder going on under the Duetere administration that seem to be in violation of their Constitution, such as that regarding Article III, Section 4; freedom of speech. One of his biggest critics and chair of the Philippines human rights commission, Senator Leila De Lima, was jailed on drug charges 6 months into Duterte’s presidency. She also led the investigation into extrajudicial killings in Davos while Duterte was mayor. Many people believe that this is suppression of her free speech by attempting to intimidate her into silence. This also eliminates any chance of Duterte being targeted by the human rights commission. Even though Duterte has committed several human rights atrocities, because their chair, DeLima, is in jail it is doubtful that the other members of the human rights commission will do anything for fear of being jailed themselves.

Duterte is fairly clearly a populist authoritarian, giving permission to the government and vigilantes to kill with no proof of crime and jailing anyone who dares to oppose him. The mob may be behind his drug war now but, perhaps if he expends this policy to more than just the war on drugs, the people will start to turn on him. Duetere’s fate lies in how hungry he is for power.