As mafia delivers essentials in Italy, cartels distribute food in Mexico

Last week, reports first circulated of several Mexican cartels deploying members to dole out aid packages to help cash-strapped residents ride out the coronavirus pandemic.

An employee of the clothing brand "El Chapo 701," owned by Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman, daughter of the convicted drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, hands out a box with food, face masks and hand sanitizers to an elderly woman as part of a campaign to help cash-strapped elderly people during th (photo credit: REUTERS)
An employee of the clothing brand "El Chapo 701," owned by Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman, daughter of the convicted drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, hands out a box with food, face masks and hand sanitizers to an elderly woman as part of a campaign to help cash-strapped elderly people during th
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador chastised drug gangs on Monday, telling them to end violence instead of distributing food and essentials, after several reports across the country in recent days showed armed narcos handing out care packages stamped with cartel logos during the coronavirus pandemic.
"These criminal organizations that have been seen distributing the packages, this isn't helpful. What helps is them stopping their bad deeds," he told reporters at a news conference.
López Obrador said gang members should refrain from harming others and instead think of the suffering they cause to their own families and the mothers of their victims.
Last week, reports first circulated of several Mexican cartels deploying members to dole out aid packages to help cash-strapped residents ride out the coronavirus pandemic.
A daughter of jailed drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was among those spotted handing out the packages stamped with her own company's "El Chapo 701" logo, which includes the image of her infamous father.
The boxes included cooking oil, rice, sugar and other items were distributed in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city.
Beyond the Guzman-linked Sinaloa Cartel, other gangs have similarly courted publicity with care packages for mostly poor residents, including the Jalisco New Generation and Los Durango cartels. Photos posted on social media on Monday showed heavily armed members from both handing out packages including toilet paper and shampoo.
To date, there are more than 8,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as well as nearly 700 deaths attributed to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
While the cartel dishes out coronavirus care packages in Mexico to those in need, videos have surfaced online in recent weeks of Mafia gangs in Italy - stemming from Sicily, Puglia, Campania and Calabria - delivering food and essential items to Italian families as shelter-in-place orders and coronavirus fears continue to grip the nation.
Although the efforts initially seem altruistic in nature, as do the cartel's, politicians and anti-mafia officials have laid claim that the Mafia could use these initiatives to sway public opinion and support in their favor, as poverty and uncertainty seep into the lives of the Italian people.
They also noted that with the economic situation in its current state, organized crime groups could also take this opportunity loan money to owners of small businesses struggling to survive during the nationwide lockdown or afterwards to rebuild their businesses, where these families would one day have to return the favor.
Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy rose by 454 on Monday, slightly up on Sunday's tally, while the number of new cases dropped to 2,256, the lowest level in well over a month, the Civil Protection Agency said.
The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 rose to 24,114, the second highest in the world after that of the United States. Total confirmed cases stood at 181,228.
Since early March, shops, restaurants, cafés and bars have all been closed as shelter-in-place orders were enacted within the country. After easing from peaks around the end of March, Italy's daily death and infection tallies have declined but are not falling steeply, as was hoped by Italians who have been in lockdown for a month.
The draconian curbs on movement and the shutdown imposed on most shops and businesses across Italy were imposed on March 9, and were scheduled to expire on Monday, however, the government announced that the nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus will continue until May 3. Among a few exceptions to the lockdown extension, Italy's Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte said bookshops, stationers and shops selling children's clothes could reopen from April 14.
“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," said Nicola Gratteri, anti-mafia investigator and head of the prosecutor’s office in Catanzaro said, according to The Guardian.
Gratteri coincidentally compared the new mafia initiatives to those of Sinaloan Mexican drug cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who murdered hundreds but was known for his "benevolence" in his home territory due to his humanitarian efforts, which included the delivery of medicine and the construction of roads for the poor constituency of Sinaloa.
In the southern city of Naples, investigators say organized crime groups - like the Comorra and Neopolitan mafia families - are handing out food to families worst-hit by the crisis, with the expectation that they will return the favor by helping the mob in the future. According to The Guardian, in Palermo, the brother of the Cosa Nostra boss was reported to have been personally carrying out deliveries of essential items to Italian homes himself.
The latter claimed that he was just carrying out charitable work in the community after he was blasted in the local newspapers for his efforts, attacking journalists in the process for alluding to the prospect the Cosa Nostra crime family was doing this for personal gain.
“Mafias are not just criminal organizations," said Federico Varese, a criminology professor at the University of Oxford, according to The Guardian. “They are organizations that aspire to govern territories and markets. Commentators often focus on the financial aspect of mafias, but they tend to forget that their strength comes from having a local base from which to operate.”
Varese further explains that these "handouts" being delivered by the mafia are not "gifts."
"The mafia does not do anything out of its kind heart. They are favors that everyone will have to pay back in some form or another, by aiding and abetting a fugitive, holding a gun, dealing drugs and the like," Varese said.
Italian anti-Mafia officials have warned that organized crime groups could take advantage of the crisis to loan money to owners of small businesses struggling to survive during the nationwide lockdown or afterwards to rebuild their businesses.
“The mafias might be able to benefit in other ways from the current lockdown and especially from the future, when Italians will all be able to return to work, spend more money, and get the economy on its feet again," Varese said. "But surely the story exemplified by the handouts of food parcels in Palermo and Naples shows their true nature, and it tells why they are so dangerous.”


Tags cartel Mafia