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MAFIA: WHAT IS IT?

WHAT IS MAFIA

Definition: “A complex of small clandestine groups (gangs), governed by the law of conspiracy of silence, exercising control on certain economic activities and patronage of the Sicilian Region.” The term “mafia” has still an uncertain etymology. The Mafia has been described as a conspiracy, organised crime, industry of violence, behavioural model, Anti-State, and more. It is able to change depending on the context that surrounds it and survive in the most different enviroments and conditions. This is an organisation that has unique characteristics but quite different from the other phenomena of crime. The main purpose of these organisations is to earn large sums of money with little effort. For this reason many people are willing to kill with ease. Since then, the Mafia was confronted with all the events and the various historical phases. And yet it is possible to find a unitary wire crossing over 150 years of mafia's life. And you can find them in the history of the Mafia itself.

HISTORY

In the early nineteenth century

Mafia was born during the nineteenth century in the triangle having as tops Palermo, Trapani and Agrigento, (Sicily). The term “mafia” appeared for the first time in 1862-1863, when it was staged in Palermo, with the comedy ” The mafia of the Vicar” written by Joseph Rizzotto. In 1812, the Sicilian Parliament proclaimed the abolition of the feudal system. The transfer of a large part of ownership land to the “bourgeoisie”, and then the nascent administrative centralisation, persuaded the new owners to organise “bands” or “teams” indispensable for the realisation of territorial control. Duties of these were: the offer of “mediation” between robbers and robbed, and, more generally, among the labourers, peasants and the new owners, the protection of affiliates, and the corruption of public officials. In addition, the “gangs” gradually established themselves as “charitable organisations”, able to successfully overcome any conflict with state institutions. In the period following the unification of Italy, that is from 1860, we saw the first experiments of coordination between the gangs. The central government underestimation of Mafia, reluctant to initiate an effective enforcement action, allowed the penetration of Mafia in legal institutions, helping to legitimise the power of the Sicilian Mafia. The Mafia developed into the economic system of western Sicily was based on the exploitation of large estates.

Twenty years of postwar fascist

The crackdown against Mafia, commissioned by Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) after a trip to Sicily in May 1925 and assigned to the prefect Cesare Mori, consisted in a repressive social plan: the first step was done using measures of police who set out to eradicate the mafia from the territories controlled by the prestige attaching to the community; then from a social perspective, the action was aimed by neutralising the weight of the middle class, abolishing political and administrative elections and reserving the functions of protection and economic regulation to the State. “Within a short time - ascertained the German sociologist Henner Hesse - with these measures they could break the power of the mafia, either hand persecuting them or making them redundant.” With the fall of Mussolini, at the end of World War II, the Mafia appeared out of the blue again. The “men of honour”, all anti-fascists, went directly from prison to public office: in fact, most of the members of the mafia had escaped fascist repression taking refuge in the United States of America, which gave rise to the Union of Sicily, which later took the name of Cosa Nostra. It allied with the separatist front, it supported the agricultural property, it sided with the peasant movement. It was confirmed as multifunctional team and inter-linked to a specific geographical area, although the American experience had provided them a valuable network of international connections.

From the monitoring of public contracts to drug traffic

With the expansion of the state intervention in the economy (1950), the Mafia changed from “rural” to “urban”: it was attracted by new sources of profit like construction, general markets and contracts. In these areas, it appeared first as the traditional protector, demanding bribes from entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, the Sicilian mafia backed the independence movement and to reassert its hegemony on the island intervened in the repression of peasant protests. Mafia commissioned the bandit Salvatore Giuliano. Linked to the Sicilian separatist movement, he was used by the Mafia and power groups connected with it in the massacre of labourers gathered in Portella on May 1, 1947: dozens of labourers gathered to celebrate the First May were murdered by gunfire. Later, Giuliano was killed by treachery, and under circumstances still not clear, in a plot hatched by the police in collaboration with the Mafia and through the treachery of some of his companions, including the same Pisciotta. Entrepreneurial initiative could rely on effective methods of “discouragement”, competition and on hoarding of public funds. These were the years in which relationship between mafia gangs and political parties became particularly intense. Mafia showed no interest in a specific political party, but it limited his activity in directing the consent to the deployment which can provide better guarantees of the preservation of their power. After passing, without suffering structural damage, the first process (at the end of the '60s), the Mafia during the next decade, even taking advantage of the state effort the face of terrorism, played impressive work of strengthening their organisation in order to make it suitable to the changed criminal scenario. In those years, the smuggling of foreign tobacco and then drug trafficking, created a massive influx of liquidity. In order to avoid “conflicts of jurisdiction” between gangs, an operating agreement was imposed. The “families” are governed by a “representative”, grouped and placed under the control of “heads”, and more families together form the “Commission” or “Cupola”. The relationship with the institutions began to become more confrontational, providing, as the only alternative to the corruption, the elimination of some people, with terrorist methods, making more clear the uncontrollability of the land by the State. At the same time, the Cosa Nostra tightened its relations with foreign criminal organisations, including the Russian “mafia”, Turkish “mafia”, Chinese Triads and the Japanese Yakuza. Sicilian Mafia maintained its organisational power. According with the area there are different names: in Sicily it comes to “Mafia”, in Campania is the “Camorra”, and in Calabria it comes to ”'Ndrangheta”.

Giovanni Falcone and the fight against Mafia.

Giovanni Falcone was born in Palermo on May 18, 1939, by Arthur, director of the provincial chemical laboratory, and Luisa Bentivegna graduated in Law from the University of Palermo in 1961. From 1954 he was a student of Liceo Classico “Umberto” and then he made a brief experience at the Naval Academy in Livorno. In 1962 he established the first Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry against Mafia in Sicily, also known as the Anti-Mafia Commission, but it did not give significant results. In 1964 he was praetor in Lentini and then he moved in Trapani as deputy prosecutor, where he remained for about twelve years. Here he came progressively inclined towards the field of criminal law: as he himself said, “was the objective assessment of the facts that fascinated me”. In Palermo, after the tragic attack on the judge Cesare Terranova (25 September 1979), Falcone began to work at the Investigation Office. Councillor instructor Rocco Chinnici gave him in May 1980 Investigation about Rosario Spatola, namely a process that also involved the U.S. crime, and, on the other hand, had seen the prosecutor Gaetano Costa (then killed the following June) hampered by some substitutes, at the signing of a long series of arrest warrants. During this experience he felt necessary to initiate investigations even in the U.S. about the prosecution of mafia bank business. It was necessary to rebuild an overall picture, an organic vision of the connections. In 1982 he promoted the new laws which introduced the offense of “mafia association” and legally defined the crime of mafia. The police and the judiciary could seize the assets of gangsters and dismiss the municipal and provincial councils suspected of collusion (secret illegal agreement) and exercised more control over money laundering. In 1982 was born the High Commissioner for the fight against the Mafia and in 1983 the new Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission, which is still in operation. On July 29, 1983, the adviser Chinnici was killed along with his body guard. Anthony Caponnetto replaced him, who resumed the intention to ensure the most favourable conditions in the investigation of crimes of the Mafia. It was constituted then, for the internal needs of these investigations, the so-called “anti-mafia pool”, on the model of the Teams active in the previous decade in front of the phenomenon of political terrorism. The group was composed by: Giovanni Falcone, the judges Di Lello, Guarnotta, and Paolo Borsellino. The interrogation of the “penitent” Tommaso Buscetta started in Rome in July 1984 by the Criminalpol, it can be considered a turning point for the knowledge of the structure of the organisation of Cosa Nostra. The Police officials Joseph Montana and Ninni Cassara, close associates of Falcone and Borsellino were killed in the summer of 1985. It was then that he began to fear for the safety of the two judges also. This led - through these dramatic events - the conviction of Cosa Nostra first maxi-trial, issued in December 16, 1987 by the Court of Assise of Palermo. President Alfonso Giordano, dedicated twenty-two months and thirty days of hearings in the meeting room of counsel. The order of trial for the 475 defendants had been filed by the Office, two years earlier. In 1988 Falcone had made a major operation, called “Iron Tower”, in collaboration with Rudolph Giuliani, District Attorney of New York, by which they affected families of Gambino and Inzerillo, involved in the trafficking of heroin. In 1989, June 20, there was a failed assassination attempt at Addaura Mondello, about which Falcone said “We are facing a refined minds that seek to guide certain actions of the Mafia. There are maybe the connection points between the leaders of the Cosa Nostra and hidden centres of power. I have the impression that this is the most reliable scenario if you really want to understand the reasons which prompted someone to murder me.” In January '90 he oversaw an investigation that led to the arrest of fourteen Colombian and Sicilian traffickers, investigation that had taken the boot from the confessions of the “repentant” Joe Cuffaro who revealed that the Chilean ship Big John downloaded 596 kilos of cocaine at the harbour of Castellammare. From March 1991 to 1992 there was a period characterised by intense activity aimed to make more effective the action of the judiciary in the fight against crime. Falcone carried out what he considered indispensable condition of renewal, and that is the rationalisation of the relationship between the prosecutor and the judicial police, and coordination between the various proxies. He also posed an instance of a co-ordination of national level. Established In November of 1991 the National Anti-Mafia Section. “I think - he clarified in such circumstances, according to a report published by the weekly magazine “L'Espresso” (June 7 1992) - that the national anti-Mafia prosecutor has the main task of putting into effect the coordination of investigations, to ensure proper functioning of the judicial police and to ensure the completeness and timeliness of investigations. I think this should be a body of support and guidance for the conduct of investigations that should be carried out exclusively by the Anti-Mafia prosecutors.” On 23 May 1992, Judge Falcone was returning home from Rome along with his wife Francesca. Near the intersection of Capaci, the assassin Giovanni Brusca drives a load of five tons of TNT, which had been placed in a tunnel dug under the road. The three bodyguards were killed on the spot, Falcone and his wife died a few hours later.

WHAT IS THE ATTITUDE THAT WE CITIZENS AND THE STATE SHOULD TAKE TO FIGHT THIS PHENOMENON?

It is critical that we give strong support to citizens who fights the mafia and it is also important that politicians or anyone with responsibilities do not tend to remove that support. The State has to oppose against the Mafia using international collaboration. There is the need of laws that allows the seizure of assets in a more functional way, as it happens today, so the mafia will be affected in their weak spot in the heart of their interests: the money! One thing that hinders the anti-mafia operation is: a conspiracy of silence! It in its native meaning is not entirely a perversion of the moral sense, as it might appear, but is a consequence of the fear as a result of the lack of security that common people feel. Another important element is the international collaboration in order to limit the so-called “tax havens” that is, those nations that allow dirty money to pass through secret accounts in banks. One of the positive things is the international conference against organized crime held in Napoli in 1994. This was an idea started from Falcone, who stated “you die because you're lonely… too often people die because they do not have the right alliances… In Sicily Mafia hits the servants of the State that the State has failed to protect.”

Organizations


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