FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cultura Mafiosa in Colombia

by ALFREDO MOLANO

Translated by Forrest Hylton.

The word’s origins are polemical: it comes from the Arabic mahya–bullying, arrogance; and maffia, in Tuscan dialect, a synonym for ostentation. The etymology fits like a ring on a finger. The mafia as we know it today was born in Sicily to defend feudal señores with shotguns and nothing but gunshots, contracting hit men and buying or killing judges. Let’s continue, since we’re getting warmer.

Thus was the Onorata Societá formed, governed by a code of honor — omertá, synonym for the law of silence — and one of its most profitable businesses was cattle rustling. We’re hot. The mafia lays its eggs in the U.S. during the Great Depression and has its day in the sun: Sicilian immigrants — poor, unemployed, looked upon badly and treated worse — co-operate in order to break the law on the model of the Onorata. This is Cosa Nostra, the era of the Godfather and the famous Lucky Luciano, dedicated to drugs, prostitution, and gambling. We are nearly burning. The police figure it out and Lucky gets 30 years, which changes with the support the Sicilian mafia gives to the U.S. Army in Italy at the end of World War II. We are practically on fire.

In our midst is a political inheritance that leads from the chulavos and pájaros [hired guns and police assassins who killed for the Conservative Party during la Violencia-tr.] in the 1950s, to the bands of contrabandistas and emerald czars of the 60s and 70s, who passed their legacy down to the narcos, called “magicians” — a play on the term mafia — who continue to rule today and who have bought their ticket to the future with the name “emergent groups” [given to paramilitary groups that have proliferated since the official demobilization process concluded in 2006-tr.]. It was unquestionably the aristocracy — white, wealthy — that first felt, resented, and ridiculed the external symptoms of the mafia — its extravagant, irreverent, presumptuous culture — so the mafia built country clubs designed to compete with the ones that declined to accept it, bought the most expensive cars, the finest thoroughbreds, the haciendas with the most notable lineages, the most upright judges, the generals with the most medals, and re-tailored the values of the self-proclaimed good people’ to suit itself. Those good people’ soon discovered it was better to join the mafia than to fight it, and so they did. Some, it is true, blushed at certain ties established through marriage, but in the end they, too, shrugged their shoulders. “Money is money,” and the rest is worthless.

The mafia did not abandon its gold mine. Instead, it broadened and consolidated it, and continued with its business, its powerful influence on institutions, its crimes, and its weapons; those were the days when U.S. Ambassador Lewis Tambs spoke of narco-democracy [1983-tr.]. The decadent aristocracy, already narcotized, already holding all the cards, appreciated the recognition and praised the great diplomat, who, by the way, wound up in Central America associated with those he had denounced. Later, this social coalition came up with another business enterprise: paramilitarism, and with it parapolitics, which is today coming ever closer to the Prince: his cousin, former private secretary, electoral barons, former head of security, and former campaign backers all have, as they now say, slight complications.

The mafia, whether Sicilian or Colombian, has forged itself against the law, has constructed — with blood — its own channels of upward mobility to political and economic power, and above all, has impregnated the rest of the country (84%, to be precise) with its culture: “I don’t take any crap,” “I’m the shrewdest,” “everything’s worthless.” It is the culture of meeting force with force, taking justice into one’s own hands, of rewards for fingerprints or digital memory, of “sell it to me or I’ll buy it from your widow,” “I’ll cut your face off, faggot,” “get out of the way or I’ll get you out of the way.” Its coat of arms: a burning heart. When Senator Piedad Córdoba says that a mafia culture dominates the country, she makes a statement that is courageous as well as just. After taking over the boards and the political directorates, now the mafia is looking to impose its norms, values, and principles — the hard way more than the easy way.

Alfredo Molano is a political columnist for El Espectador, where this essay originally appeared, and the author of many books of oral history, including The Dispossessed: The Desterrados of Colombia (Haymarket, 2005), and Loyal Soldiers in the Cocaine Kingdom: Tales of Drugs, Mules, and Gunmen (Columbia University Press, 2004).

Forrest Hylton is the author of Evil Hour in Colombia (Verso, 2006), and with Sinclair Thomson, of Revolutionary Horizons: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics (Verso, 2007). He writes for New Left Review, NACLA Report on the Americas, and CounterPunch.org

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail