According to experts, the consequences of the coronavirus are yet to be felt. Unfortunately, the fast-spreading infection that keeps terrifying the world will have dramatic effects on the economy.
Numerous people have already felt the repercussions of the pandemic, as many of them have lost their jobs and struggle with poverty.
During the first month of the pandemic, Italians remained positive and determined to keep their spirits up, but as the crisis deepened, social unrest, anger, and impatience are mounting, especially in the south, which is much poorer than the north.
Due to the lack of measures to help the poor, across the poorest southern regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily, and Puglia, in particular, the Mafia has started to deliver food to poor families in quarantine.
Yet, this has led to an investigation by the government, as according to Nicola Gratteri, anti-mafia investigator and head of the prosecutor’s office in Catanzaro, the Mafia might “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.”
As numerous businesses have been shut down, the Mafia is among the rare employers left in the country.
Giuseppe Provenzano, a cabinet minister who has responsibility for the Mezzogiorno, also warned that there is an increased risk of organized crime gangs seeking to supplant the state by offering cash handouts and “loans” to small businesses trying to avoid bankruptcy.
Federico Varese, a professor of criminology at the University of Oxford and a senior research fellow at Nuffield College, says that none of these good deeds are done “just for benefit of the community”, but “ their gifts are favors to be paid back at some later time.”
The Italian minister of the interior, Luciana Lamorgese, agreed that “the Mafia could take advantage of the rising poverty, swooping in to recruit people to its organization.’
“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.”
At the same time, many found these warnings ironic, as they illustrate the same manipulative techniques used by both, governments and the Mafia, to gain influence and win public opinion.