Friday, January 9, 2015
THE CAMORRA ITALIAN MAFIA
One of the Camorra’s strategies to gain social prestige is political patronage. The familial clans became the preferred interlocutors of local politicians and public officials, because of their grip on the community. In turn, the clan bosses use their political sway to assist and protect their clients against the local authorities. Despite the Camorra's origins, the organization presently has important ramifications in other Italian regions, such as Lombardy, Piedmont, Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna.
The origins of the Camorra are not entirely clear. It may date back to the 16th century as a direct Italian descendant of a Spanish secret society, the Garduña, founded in 1417. Officials of the Kingdom of Naples may have introduced the organization to the area, or it may have grown gradually out of small criminal gangs operating in Neapolitan society near the end of the 18th century. However, recent historical research in Spain suggests that the Garduña never really existed and was based on a fictional 19th century book.
The first official use of the word dates from 1735, when a royal decree authorised the establishment of eight gambling houses in Naples. The word is almost certainly a blend of "capo" (boss) and a Neapolitan street game, the "morra". (In this game, two persons wave their hands simultaneously, while a crowd of surrounding gamblers guess, in chorus, at the total number of fingers exposed by the principal players.) This activity was prohibited by the local government, and some people started making the players pay for being “protected” against the passing police.
Camorristi in Naples, 1906
The Camorra first emerged during the chaotic power vacuum in the years between 1799–1815, when a Neapolitan Republic was proclaimed on the wave of the French Revolution and the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty. The first official mention of the Camorra as an organisation dates from 1820, when police records detail a disciplinary meeting of the Camorra, a tribunal known as the Gran Mamma. That year a first written statute, the frieno, was also discovered, indicating a stable organisational structure in the underworld. Another statute was discovered in 1842, including initiation rites and funds set aside for the families of those imprisoned. The organisation was also known as the Bella Società Riformata, Società dell’Umirtà or Onorata Società.
The evolution into more organized formations indicated a qualitative change: the Camorra and camorristi were no longer local gangs living off theft and extortion; they now had a fixed structure and some kind of hierarchy. Another qualitative leap was the agreement of the liberal opposition and the Camorra, following the defeat in the 1848 revolution. The liberals realized that they needed popular support to overthrow the king. They turned to the Camorra and paid them, the camorristi being the leaders of the city’s poor. The Camorra effectively had developed into power brokers in a few decades.
The Camorra was never a coherent whole nor a centralised organization. Instead, it has always been a loose confederation of different, independent groups or families. Each group was bound around kinship ties and controlled economic activities which took place in its particular territory. Each family clan took care of its own business, protected its territory, and sometimes tried to expand at another group’s expense. Although not centralized, there was some minimal coordination, to avoid mutual interference. The families competed to maintain a system of checks and balances between equal powers.
Compared to the Sicilian Cosa Nostra's pyramidal structure, the Camorra has more of a 'horizontal' than a 'vertical' structure. As a result, individual Camorra clans act independently of each other, and are more prone to feuding among themselves. This however makes the Camorra more resilient when top leaders are arrested or killed, with new clans and organizations germinating out of the stumps of old ones. As the Galasso clan boss Pasquale Galasso once stated in court; "Campania can get worse because you could cut into a Camorra group, but another ten could emerge from it."
In the 1970s and 1980s Raffaele Cutolo made an attempt to unify the Camorra families in the manner of the Sicilian Mafia, by forming the New Organized Camorra (Nuova Camorra Organizzata or NCO), but this proved unsuccessful. Drive-by shootings by camorristi often result in casualties among the local population, but such episodes are often difficult to investigate because of widespread omertà (code of silence). According to a report from Confesercenti, the second-largest Italian Trade Organization, published on October 22, 2007 in the Corriere della Sera, the Camorra control the milk and fish industries, the coffee trade, and over 2,500 bakeries in the city.
In 1983, Italian law enforcement estimated that there were only about a dozen Camorra clans. By 1987, the number had risen to 26, and in the following year, a report from the Naples flying squad reported their number as 32. Currently it is estimated there are about 111 Camorra clans and over 6,700 members in Naples and the immediate surroundings.Roberto Saviano, an investigative journalist and author of Gomorra, an exposé of the activities of the Camorra, says that this sprawling network of Camorra clans now dwarfs the Sicilian Mafia, the 'Ndrangheta and southern Italy's other organised gangs, in numbers, in economic power and in ruthless violence.
In recent years, various Camorra clans have been forming alliances with Nigerian drug gangs and the Albanian Mafia, even going so far as to intermarry. For instance, Augusto La Torre, the former La Torre clan boss who became a pentito, is married to an Albanian woman. It should also be noted that the first foreign pentito, a Tunisian, admitted to being involved with the feared Casalesi clan of Casal di Principe. The first town that the Camorra gave over to be completely governed by a foreign clan was Castel Volturno, which was given to the Rapaces, clans from Lagos and Benin City in Nigeria. This allowed them to traffic cocaine and women indentured to sex slavery before sending them across the whole of Europe.