How a Small Italian City Transformed into A Bloody Mafia Battlefield

Foggia, a small city in Italy’s Puglia region, recently saw its residents come out in large numbers on the streets to protest against the organized criminal Mafia that plagues the city.

Puglia Provinces

Puglia Provinces

In the first 3 weeks of this year alone, several devasting bomb attacks and murders have rocked the city. Cerignola, Manfredonia, Mattinata, and Monte Sant’Angelo – which are located in the province – are now under ‘extraordinary administration’ due to extensive reports of the local government colluding with the mafia.

An all-new anti-mafia force, headquartered in Foggia, launched operations on Feb 15 to counter the rampant collusion between local businesses, public servants, lawyers, and mafioso. The situation has attracted national attention several times due to the sheer brazenness of the mafia’s actions against local businesses and ordinary residents.

The latest Anti-Mafia Directorate report stated that illicit and lawful businesses were virtually indistinguishable from one another in Foggia, highlighting the prevalence of lawlessness in the city.

History of The Mafia in the Area

Puglia had its first tryst with the mafia during the 1980s when the Sacra Corona Unita was formed under Giuseppe Rogoli, a charismatic leader and mob boss. Rogoli is currently serving three life sentences in Viterbo prison.

Giuseppe Rogoli who is serving 3 life sentences

Giuseppe Rogoli who is serving 3 life sentences

Sacra Corona Unita comprised of over fifty clans and two thousand members. This regional syndicate’s primary operations were smuggling people, arms, drugs, and cigarettes.

The organization was suspected to have a hand in the cold-blooded murders of 4 people – a local mafia boss and his younger brother along with 2 other innocent bystanders – in 2017.

The gangs have resurged again in 2020. They are now unleashing violence and wreaking havoc throughout the region.

Mafia expert Andrea Leccese states that creating criminal fame was an essential aspect of the whole mafia phenomenon. He authored the Malapuglia, a book in which he discussed the mafia situation in Puglia. He added that it was a noisy and attention-seeking mafia that was seeking fame through its actions.

Malapuglia by Andrea Leccesse

Malapuglia by Andrea Leccesse

In comparison, other mafia gangs like the ones in Salento, Bari, or the Andrighetto and Cosa Nostra mafia have a dislike for outright violence since such acts pose a threat to their huge economic interests. Violence tends to draw fire from the government and the police, which is not in the best interest of the gangs.

The mafia in Foggia hasn’t suffered any major financial confiscations or losses yet, unlike the Bari Mafia. 2018 saw the Bari mafia bosses lose assets worth over €1B to the government in Seychelles, Virgin Islands, Curacao, and Malta.

Violence Levels Rising

The Foggia mafia’s primary activities are extortion of local businesses and racketeering. They use bomb attacks and arson on the businesses that fail to pay them on time, which has led to the area seeing a surge in violent incidents over the last few weeks.

Additionally, almost every local politician has ties to the powerful Foggia clans, states Leonardo Palmisano, who is a sociologist working at the Polytechnic of Bari. Palmisano also wrote the “Mafia Caporale”, a book released in 2017 that analyzed the mafia problem in Italy.

Mafia Caporale by Leonardo Palmisano

Mafia Caporale by Leonardo Palmisano

Palmisano remarked that two major municipalities like Manfredonia and Cerignola being placed under extraordinary administration simultaneously was something that had never taken place before.

What’s even more confusing is that both administrations come from opposing ends of the spectrum, which has spread chaos in the minds of the citizens.

Palmisano added that one administration had center-left leanings whereas the other practiced a center-right ideology. Since both of them have been dissolved, citizens aren’t sure of who can be trusted anymore. Confusion has the upper hand everywhere, he said.

The influence of the Foggia clans has historically been limited by their geographical location. They cannot expand towards Bari due to the Andria and Cerignola clans that dominate the area whereas Manfredonia is ruled by the Romito clan.

Due to this, they’ve been cut off from other South American drug cartels and the drug trade.

Palmisano stated that the Foggia clan tended to exert complete authority over a territory and drive it to impoverishment. They often brutally exploited the territories under their control and bled them dry. On the other hand, Mafia gangs like the Bari have always enjoyed good relations with their Balkan counterparts.

Are local citizens finally resisting the mafia?

The region is no stranger to bombings – 2019 saw continuous attacks every 4 days during the first 2 months. However, these targets were retaliatory and aimed at local business centers that had filed complaints with the police, seeking protection against the extortion threats.

However, with victims speaking out in increasing numbers against the violence of gangs that demand over €100,000 from ordinary local businesses, it could be an indication that organized crime may well be on its way out. It appears that the untenable demands placed on anguished business owners are finally breaking the proverbial camel’s back.