Erle Frayne D. Argonza
The month of February is the 2nd month of the year. 2 in numerology signifies change, whether this be change for the better or for worst. So let me take up with you the matter of change in states from legitimate to mafia regime.
The question worth reflecting is: is it possible for a mafia state to gel in the foreseeable future? We are witnessing today the rise to the executive department of a mafia power in Belarus, so let us continue to observe the events in that country.
By mafia state is meant the rise to power of a mafia group—a group engaged in organized crime—to state power and sustaining that power in the long run. Such a rise would then demolish the accepted rules of the game of governance, though the mafia regime may show semblance of legitimacy through electoral victories.
During the incumbency of any mafia regime, it is possible that mafia operations across the country concerned will become the norm more than the exception. Mafia groups will then declare cities and/or regions within the country as their enclave, and bless those elected and appointed officials there being the strategic powerbrokers.
From the advent of the Great Depression through the recovery era of the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, around five (5) cities in the United States were reputedly under the control of mafia groups. Had such a trend gained momentum in the manner of a domino effect, city after city and then state after state in the USA could have fallen into mafia hands, and it would just be a matter of time before the federal government itself will become the enclave of the most powerful mafia godfather in America.
The scenario of a mafia USA didn’t take place as early enough the trend towards a domino effect was nipped in the bud. Humbled by the power of central government that jailed the topnotch mafia lords, the mafia then became subordinate operators that can be tapped by Establishment rouge elements for sabotage and assassination operations, e.g. the assassination of John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert.
Fast forward to the year 1998, when the Philippines’ presidency of Joseph Estrada gelled. A scary regime it was, as Estrada himself was a growing mafia lord and his Mafiosi pals expropriated the presidential palace by night as a ‘midnight cabinet’. So corrupt was that regime, that the damage it had done to crime solution, fiscal balance, and good governance seem irreparable. It was overthrown in January 2001, and so the mafia state was nipped in the bud before it would calcify in the long run.
As the Philippine mafia was basking in power in 1998-2000, Colombia was showing a peculiar situation. Though its central government was no mafia at all, drug lords were literally the power brokers there. Drug lords were the real government in Colombia, while the central government was only the virtual government. It took about a decade for the legitimate state to re-assert its power and efface the power of the mafia lords who eventually faced squid tactics of elimination.
The situation of a mafia state almost calcified in Russia during Yeltsin’s incumbency as president. So sudden was the shift to capitalism then, as state enterprises were ordered privatized (from their original state-owned status). The only people with huge funds to buy state firms were the mafia families in Russia, so that before Yeltsin bowed out of power 80% of Russia’s corporate world was already in the hands of mafia lords.
That conundrum in Russia was reversed only with the ascent to power of Putin and the FSB (former KGB). The FSB knew that the emerging oligarchs of a capitalist Russia were actually mafia lords. It is within the context of dominating mafia power that the state sampled some oligarchs for jailing as a signal to all mafia groups that their powers are delimited. At a certain juncture, the mafia there knew that it cannot mutate to a political power broker without suffering the consequences.
Yet no matter what measures are done to clip mafia power, sooner or later there will be one state in the world where a long-term mafia state will succeed. It seems that Belarussia is the first such state to endure if ever. As of today though, forces in Germany and Poland are already working out to stamp out the Belorussian mafia from an enduring power entrenchment, and so the events there are worth watching.
A mafia state is like a ‘pacman fever’ (to recall that old video game), that once it is entrenched and endures through time, it can gobble up experientially other states as well. Those most contiguous to it could be the first to be infected. That is why Poland and Germany are bothered so badly, they are mobilizing resources for an overthrow of the mafia presidency in Belarussia.
[Philippines, 02 February 2011]
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