It’s a No -Win Situation for the Mafia in Italy as Their Lending Hand Gets Slapped During the Coronavirus Crisis

They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

By MS | April 10, 2020

The Zen district of Palermo, Sicily

Not even in a time of unprecedented crisis will alleged members of Italian organized crime groups be given the benefit of the doubt – even when it comes to good deeds.

In Italy, where the coronavirus has killed more than 18,000 and infected more than 140,000, reports have surfaced that members of Italian organized crime are helping out their fellow citizens with shopping bags filled with key provisions such as pasta, olive oil, milk, flour and meats to those who have run out of cash and are in desperate need of help.

Reportedly, the Cosa Nostra on the island of Sicily, the Camorra of Campania and Naples, and the ‘Ndrangheta in the Calabrian region of mainland Italy have all joined together in a concerted effort to help their extended family and neighbors during this deadly pandemic.

It would make good sense, and be a prayer answered, that someone – anyone – would step up and help this seriously distressed country that has been in total lockdown since the beginning of March. The government, although willing, has been largely unable and slow in helping its citizenry. Things are becoming so bad that there are reports of townspeople refusing to pay for groceries because they have no money left, and even the food banks are having a hard time keeping up with the massive demand of its people.

Instead of acting to ease the burden on its citizens by accepting whatever help can be given, by whoever can give it, the Italian government has sent their police (the Carabinieri) to guard neighborhood grocery stores and has spread stories in all the newspapers that the mafia is urging people to revolt via private Facebook groups.

The government has also been speculating through news media, since the day this virus reared its ugly head, that the mafia has ulterior motives for helping in this dire situation and would only be doing so to take advantage of the crisis in an effort to increase their wealth and power.

It seems to me that perhaps the government’s priorities might be a little skewed at the moment (maybe a lot skewed considering the death toll and misery in Italy right now.)

This past week, a reporter from La Repubblica newspaper reported that Giuseppe Cusimano, the brother of jailed alleged “drug boss” Nicolo Cusimano was seen distributing bags of food to people in his Zen neighborhood of Palermo, a very “economically deprived” area of about 16,000 on the northern outskirts of the city.

Of all the life and death issues that are currently at hand, and with the Italian government and all its departments being stressed and shorthanded, what do they do after they read this story? They urge their police to begin an immediate investigation. (How nice!)

After the police got involved, La Repubblica reported that Cusimano took to his personal Facebook page and posted, “Gentleman, the state does not want us to do charity because we are mafiosi and, thanks to me, they make such articles.”

It was such a discouraging and disgusting response from the media and the government that Cusimano said in the same post that he has decided not “give anything anymore.”

So, how exactly does this help anyone?

In what is obviously the most desperate of times, with a country down on its knees, and with people in dire straits and near starvation, the fact that anyone is willing to come out of their house and help should be looked upon with appreciation. They should be given an award or a round of applause for their good deeds and willingness to help their fellow citizens – no matter who is doing the giving regardless of who they were or allegedly were in normal times.

Italy is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world from this deadly scourge and when the Italian people who are willing to assist are being investigated for handing out bags of groceries only because of their alleged affiliations, the government should hang its head in shame.

When put into context, these men of honor or mafioso come from these neighborhoods, and the people they are saving are their own….their mothers, their fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and the families of boys and girls they grew up and went to school with.

Enough with the bullshit already because the “big, bad mafia” aren’t the bad guys here.

Maybe the Italian government, with their agonizingly slow response, is embarrassed that they haven’t been able to rise to the occasion as they are expected to in a situation such as this. So, instead, they reduce themselves to criticize the very people who have stepped up and helped. These are unprecedented times – the likes of which has not been seen since the Black Plague of the early 1900s, and the government should welcome any and all help from anyone – regardless of affiliation – to help stabilize neighborhoods and reduce the fear and panic running rampant.

This is not a time for politics or pointing fingers, for making accusations and speculations, or for prosecuting or persecuting anyone – especially anyone who is trying to help.

You can believe what Federico Varese, professor of criminology at the University of Oxford, told The Guardian in an article published today, “that the handouts by the mafias are not gifts. The mafia does not do anything out of its kind heart.” Maybe that might be true in normal times, but these are not normal times.

Or you can give Cusimano and other men of honor the benefit of the doubt this time around and accept those bags of groceries and whatever other provisions and help these men of honor can offer because, after all, this is a life and death situation – and quite possibly the potential death of a nation. What these men are doing is an act of humanity, not a scheme or a self-serving act of charity. They are helping their fellow citizens and that is exactly how this should be viewed. Period.

As Cusimano told us in a Facebook message, “Mine was an act of generosity without ulterior motives because what we are experiencing, every help is indispensable and I and some (others) in the neighborhood with the Padre Pio Association have thought in our small way to help the less fortunate by donating basic necessities.

“I don’t understand why the mafia was associated with this beneficiary act. So, I have to think that charity is a crime. I hope my position is clarified, I am just a boy who loves his neighborhood, and in times of difficulty, I help others.”

After all, as the old saying goes, “Those who can do, do…those who can’t, often criticize.”

Enough said…e che Dio benedica tutto! (And may god bless us all!)

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