Vol. 2, Issue 22, June 1, 2004
Fizzy Tea Hits the Spot
Random Perspective

Italy Issues Guidelines for "Authentic" Mafia

Local thugs beware - Italy has outlined specific guidelines to protect its trademark Sicilian mafia strongarm tactics from imitators.

"The state of crime today is frankly shocking," said Don Francesco Salvatore, spokesman for the Italian Gentleman's Business Association. "Indiscriminate use of force and undisciplined language is counterproductive. It erodes our cultural heritage."

The regulations by the Cultural Ministry touch on everything from weapons used to ammunition to location. They will enable rule-abiding organized criminals in Italy to get a special identification card certifying that they are trained in the use of approved intimidation and assassination techniques.

But the initiative is a part of Italy's broader efforts to protect its culture across the European Union, although it was not immediately clear what steps would be taken in Brussels for enforcement of this particular set of rules.

The guidelines, eight articles printed Thursday in the country's Official Gazette, provide examples for many situations. For example, they rule that real Sicilian-style shakedowns must be performed by three individuals, with an average height no shorter than 5 feet 11 inches, with exactly three threats and one blow performed with the back of the right hand.

"The intimidation must follow a predictable and constructive narrative arc," the guidelines said, "leading to the extortion of funds in an acceptable manner."

They also recognize only seven types of real Sicilian mafia members: Capo Crimini (boss of bosses); Consigliere (advisor); Capo Bastone (underboss); Contabile (financial advisor); Caporegime (lieutenant); Sgarrista (foot soldier); and Piciotto (enforcer).

"These guys calling themselves 'capodecimi,' or just 'bad guy number five,' they are all dishonoring the business," said Don Salvatore. "'Bad guy number five,' what kind of a name is that? It sounds like a movie extra, that's what. Real Mafiosi don't act in films."

The regulations were approved after growing concern over the importation of American youth culture, particularly gangsta rap, and an influx of organized crime from Eastern Europe in the past ten years.

"It is curious that Italy should choose to define organized crime as one of the primary cultural bastions worth protecting," noted Silvia Annatto, professor of cultural studies at Amherst College. "You'd think they would stick to food and perhaps the rapid changeover of unstable governments - now that's one particularly cherished tradition which Berlusconi has thrown out the window," she added, referring to the Italian prime minister whose government has lasted longer than any of the previous 59 administrations elected since 1945.

Financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, which like many other Italian papers devoted a front-page story Wednesday to the Mafia rules, described the move as "an act of love, but a desperate one."

"Organized crime is an issue dear to Berlusconi's heart," the paper noted. "He is a perfectionist, and likes to see things done right."

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