The Guardian reports that videos of known Mafia gang members delivering food and other essential goods have surfaced online over the past few weeks. They reportedly brought the goods to some of the poorest regions across the south of the country, specifically Campania, Calabria, Sicily, and Puglia. Italy is one of the European countries to be hit hardest by the virus, with over 160,000 confirmed cases and more than 16,000 deaths.
"For over a month, shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs have been closed," anti-mafia investigator Nicola Gratteri explained. "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."
Italian minister of the interior Luciana Lamorgese has indicated that the Mafia could "take advantage of the rising poverty" in the country. It is suspected the deliveries are being made to gain local support and to "recruit people to its organization." As suggested by University of Oxford professor of criminology Federico Varese, mafia families often "aspire to govern territories and markets," which would incentivize gaining the support of vulnerable residents. He also stressed that the deliveries from mafia members "are not gifts," but favors that locals should be expected to pay back.
"Mafia bosses consider their cities as their own fiefdom," Gratteri added. "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."