We finished the last article describing how Sicily had begun to be affected by mafia-style behaviour. The West of the island and Palermo in particular were beginning to experience types of illegal activities that we now associate with organised crime. A prime example were the citrus orchards around Palermo. Initially these locations were easy targets for production sabotage but when protection was required the gangs responsible for the disruption would force the owners to hire their own men. A mafia cause and effect had been established and the mafia Roulette Casino had begun.
By 1864 the operations were well enough established for the head of the Palermo National Guard to remark that the gangs:
“affiliates every day of the brightest young people coming from the rural class, of the guardians of the fields in the Palermitan countryside, and of the large number of smugglers; a sect which gives and receives protection to and from certain men who make a living on traffic and internal commerce. It is a sect with little or no fear of public bodies, because its members believe that they can easily elude this.”
In higher circles in Italy the phenomenon had also been noticed and Sicily had become an issue. The term “mafia” was first recorded in relation to organised crime in a police report sent to Rome in 1865. As the movement became more ingrained in Sicilian life, opportunities arose for the leaders to influence local politics in a way akin to Blackjack Strategy. In an era when very few people were eligible to vote, it was relatively easy to use money or more violent measures to ensure a local politician cooperated with you.
By the turn of the century, the mafia style gangs had been operating for some thirty years and were extremely well entrenched. For the Sicilian population in general, much of the population had grown up knowing nothing else but this type of society. Second generation gang members were able to operate freely via their influence over local politicians and even when arrested were able to pay for defense lawyers. If imprisoned, family members could be supported financially. The mafia was here to stay in the same way as the Online Casino is now.
Part Three follows……