Young guns take charge of mafia clans – with deadly results

Crackdowns on Italy's mafia clans and the arrests of notorious bosses have had unintended consequences - including the rise of an inexperienced but reckless generation of aspiring leaders. Felia Allum, Senior Lecturer in Italian and Politics at the UK's University of Bath explains what this has meant for Italy.

Young guns take charge of mafia clans – with deadly results
A gang-related shooting in Naples. Ciro Fusco/EPA

Over the last few years, the police and judiciary have proved largely successful in capturing and prosecuting the leadership of some of Europe’s most notorious crime syndicates.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Naples – home to the Camorra, the notorious Neapolitan mafia. The Conversation

Many of the Camorra clans that dominated the city during the 1990s and early 2000s have seen their most experienced leaders arrested and sent to prison, including Paolo Di Lauro, Salvatore D’Avino, Raffaele Amato, Edoardo Contini, and many more.

This should be good news; the arrests of these middle-aged mob bosses mean that the criminal underworld has been emptied of charismatic leaders, disrupting the clans’ hierarchies and operations.

But there have been unintended consequences. Efficient law enforcement strategies have left a vast vacuum in the Camorra, which a younger, more reckless generation of aspiring clan leaders are now vying to fill.

As a result, the situation in Naples is one of anarchy, instability and danger. With no guidance from established camorristi, inexperienced young men are inflicting chaos on the city. Local businesses which once formed the power base of established clans now suffer from even greater extortion and violence at the hands of their successors.

Turmoil in the illicit drugs trade is indicated by ever more frequent shoot outs between rival clans, as they fight over control of supply and distribution. Meanwhile, young teenagers who lack prospects in the context of Italy’s stagnant economy are easily recruited as foot soldiers and drug dealers, in exchange for instant cash.

And whereas the previous generation tried to be discreet, this next generation of camorristi have taken to Facebook to threaten rivals, goad the police and glorify mob culture and death. They imitate Isis by growing beards and using strong language with references to terrorism, to create a sense of shared identity among their group.

Their latest form of power play is to drive around at night on mopeds, shooting in the air. These raids (called “stese”) are a way for young gangs to affirm their existence, intimidate citizens and threaten rivals. This behaviour has led the judiciary to speak of their crimes as a form of “urban terrorism”.

Young lives claimed

Inevitably, innocent bystanders have been caught in the crossfire: in September 2015, a 17-year-old was killed as he sat on his moped while out with friends on a Saturday night. And in January 2017, a ten-year-old girl got caught up in a punitive shoot out.

Victims of their circumstances. pixelthing/Flickr, CC BY-SA


But this erratic violence is also removing the possibility of redemption for those who get caught early in their criminal careers.

In his 2016 documentary Robinù, Italian journalist Michele Santoro quoted some emerging criminals, saying: “At 15, they learn how to shoot, at 20, they are killers and they don’t reach 30”.

During their short lives, there is no time for traditional values. Instead, they crave celebrity status. As one young camorristi said:

Nowadays, it is those who commit the most crimes and break the most rules, who are recognised as the leaders.

Worryingly, this trend is emerging in other cities across Europe. Liverpool, England has also become a hub for drugs and arms sales, with a thriving organised crime community seeking to control these activities. There have been four murders since April 2016, which were thought to be associated with local gang turf wars.

The use of firearms, especially in turf wars, often revolves around drug markets. This remains a major concern in European cities, but appears to be low down the political and police agendas. For instance, Europol’s latest serious and organised crime threat assessment clearly prioritises technological innovation, and criminals’ capacity to engage with and adapt to the digital age through new online developments such as online illicit trade, encrypted communication channels and so on. But the guns wielded by territorial clans are not virtual. They are real – and they kill.

In 2013, 58% of EU citizens expected the level of firearms-related crime to increase over the next five years. Between July 2014 and June 2015, 1,285 guns and 23,000 munitions were seized in the province of Naples. And in the UK, the latest figures up to June 2016 indicate that gun crime is also on the rise (an increase of 7%). In 2015 alone, 714 firearms were taken off the streets of London.

Organised crime groups, gangs and mafias operate within a vicious world of crime, power and money. But there have been unintended consequences, since the police and judiciary have finally taken effective action against these groups. The emergence of a new generation of gang leaders suggests that effective law enforcement is not enough to dampen the incentive for young people to get involved in criminal gangs. Instead, it may be time to reconsider the impact of the principles behind some recent social and economic policies, which are affecting the lives of so many people across Europe.

Felia Allum, Senior Lecturer in Italian and Politics, University of Bath

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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‘I represent the nobodies’: How Maradona became the hero of Naples

Few places will mourn the death of Diego Maradona as much as Naples, the downtrodden, gritty Italian city that clasped the troubled Argentine to its heart at his time of need and was repaid with the best years of perhaps the greatest footballer to ever play the game.

'I represent the nobodies': How Maradona became the hero of Naples
Maradona has long been a hero and icon in the city of Naples. Photo: AFP

Buildings around Naples are adorned with depictions of the man who took Napoli to the top of the Italian game and beyond and became an icon and spokesman for Neapolitans, whose chaotic city was feared and loathed in equal measure by the rest of Italy.

“I feel like I represented a part of Italy that didn't count for anything,” he said in 'Diego Maradona', the 2019 Asif Kapadia documentary about his life in Naples.
So deep was 'barrio boy' Maradona's attachment to Naples that he called Napoli's first ever league title, won a year after he led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup, the “greatest triumph” of his career.
Surrounded by jubilant fans on the pitch of Napoli's Stadio San Paolo, he explained why: “I won this one at my home.”
Maradona's achievements at Napoli, who had been also-rans until he arrivedin 1984 following a difficult two-year spell at Barcelona, cemented his position as the greatest player of his generation and, in many peoples' eyes, make him the best ever.
Diego Maradona on his arrival in Italy in 1984. Photo: AFP
Another league title in 1990, the 1989 UEFA Cup, and an Italian Cup also arrived during Maradona's seven years in southern Italy.
Maradona's 115 goals in all competitions was a club record that stood for 26 years and his heroics came at a time when Serie A was the world's
strongest, richest league, where the likes of Michel Platini and Zico strutted their stuff.
He fled in disgrace in 1991, a failed drugs test, an unrecognised son and a billion-lira tax dispute all left back in Naples, where his penchant for late-night parties, cocaine and women were almost as famous as his magical displays on the pitch.
Camorra links
Courted by criminals, the King of Spain and even the Pope, Maradona became a quasi-religious figure in Naples. He brought joy to a desperately poor city blighted by bloody conflicts between the competing clans of the powerful Camorra mafia, one of whom Maradona would get to know very well.
Indeed the 1984 signing of a genuine superstar by Napoli – who were heavily in debt and had finished 11th the previous season – immediately raised eyebrows, with persistent rumours that a chunk of the world record $10.48 million fee that brought him to Italy came from the Camorra's deep pockets.
The opening question in his first press conference came from a reporter who asked a confused Maradona whether he knew about the Camorra and its “influence
on football” and was immediately ejected by livid club owner Corrado Ferlaino.
“I never asked for anything from the Camorra, they gave me the security of knowing that nothing was going to happen to my two children,” Maradona
insisted in a 2017 interview to Italian TV station Canale 5
Murals dedicated to Maradona adorn the walls of apartment buildings in central Naples. Photo: AFP
However his access to drugs and women came thanks to the infamous Giuliano clan, who immediately befriended Maradona, furnished his burgeoning cocaine
habit and went to great lengths to make sure they were photographed partying with the world's most famous footballer.
Maradona himself admitted that every week he would binge from Sunday night until Wednesday, beginning an intense detox programme each Thursday that would get him ready for the following weekend's match.
It took Napoli two years to provide Maradona with teammates capable of challenging for honours, and when the title came in 1987 it caused such wild
celebrations that stories of a summer-long party became as famous as the triumph itself.
In reality the city came to a standstill for around a week. To this day Neapolitans name their sons after a football god they've only seen play on old VHS players and YouTube.
Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris with Diego Maradona in 2017. Photo: AFP
Another title arrived three years later before it all began to fall apart, not long after he and the Argentine national team enraged Italy by dumping the
'Azzurri' out of the 1990 World Cup in the semi-finals – in Naples of all places.
His problems had begun some time before. He had tired of the suffocating attention Naples afforded him and in 1989 had signed terms with Marseille, only for Ferlaino to put a stop to the transfer at the last minute.
 “After a four-hour meeting, Ferlaino said that if we won the UEFA Cup I could leave, but we won it, and he blocked the move anyway,” Maradona said in
However after the 1990 World Cup he had become a hate figure in Italy and his support network slowly melted away. In February 1991 police announced he
had been caught on wiretaps asking for cocaine and prostitutes from a mob figure. A trumped-up drugs trafficking charge soon followed.
The failed drugs test that finished him off came after a match with Bari two months later, and an unprecedented worldwide ban from the game until June
1992 left him back to Buenos Aires, never to reach the same heights again in his career.
But he remained an icon in southern Italy, and received a hero's welcome on subsequent visits to the city of Naples.
In 2017, he was made an honorary citizen by the city's mayor, Luigi de Magistris.