Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail