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November 06 2013

Voyage aux marges de Schengen

Avec l'intégration des pays de l'Est à l'Union européenne et le gommage progressif des barrières frontalières, les identités nationales devaient être atténuées. Or, dans certains pays, les populations restent prisonnières de stratégies politiques qui instrumentalisent les questions identitaires. / Europe, (...) / Europe, Europe de l'Est, Hongrie, Slovaquie, Ukraine, Culture, Démographie, Économie, Histoire, Identité culturelle, Inégalités, Langue, Migrations, Politique, Sécurité européenne, Société, Mafia, Frontières - 2013/04

August 31 2013

[South America] The Most Dangerous City in the World Is Not Where You Think It Is - Robert Muggah…

[South America] The Most Dangerous City in the World Is Not Where You Think It Is - Robert Muggah and Steven Dudley - The Atlantic

Recruitment into the ranks of armed groups is common, mostly for youth who face dim employment prospects as they bounce from city to city. Professionals are also not immune. Criminal gangs in Mexico are kidnapping engineers and computer scientists to help them build their sophisticated communications systems that sometimes surpass the government’s.

By virtually every metric, a humanitarian catastrophe is spreading across Mexico and Central America. The implications of this violence epidemic are frequently ignored by governments across the region. Aid agencies have also been slow to respond, with just a handful of groups like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) sounding alarm bells.

#mafia #violence

August 12 2013

Italien : Mafia-Familien wird der Nachwuchs weggenommen | Telepolis

Italien : Mafia-Familien wird der Nachwuchs weggenommen | Telepolis

Un juge italien veut placer les enfants de familles appartenant à la mafia dans des famille d’acceuil loin de leur Calabre natale. Il cherche à détruire les structures de la mafia.

Die neue Strategie soll Dynastien unterbrechen und Kindern eine Chance auf ein Leben außerhalb der Organisierten Kriminalität geben

Der kalabrische Jugendgerichtspräsident Roberto di Bella hat eine neue Strategie gegen die ’Ndrangheta entwickelt, die seine Region seit Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts terrorisiert: Er nimmt Familien, die im Verdacht stehen, der Mafia anzugehören oder ihr positiv gegenüberzustehen, bei der ersten sich bietenden Gelegenheit die Kinder weg. Zweck dieser Maßnahmen ist nicht die Abschreckung von Eltern, die bereits hoffnungslos in dem kriminellen Netzwerk gefangen sind, sondern der Schutz der Söhne und Töchter, die eine Chance bekommen sollen, sich für ein anderes Leben als das von der Familie vorbestimmte zu entscheiden.

Est-ce que l’éloignement obligatoire de mineurs de leurs familles mafieuses est une mesure efficace dans le combat contre la mafia ? Il faudra respecter la volonté des jeunes pour obtenir des effets positifs. Si la mesure est imposée contre la volonté des enfants, l’état italien se situera au même niveau que les colonels grecs qui kidnappaient les enfants de leurs opposants de gauche pendant la guerre civile.

#mafia #italie #enfants #liberte

July 25 2013

La Mafia, c'est vraiment pas du vent

La Mafia, c’est vraiment pas du vent

La #mafia, les petits gars, se moque bien de l’idéologie. Avec le fric pour totem, qu’il vienne du corps des femmes, de l’héro des junkies ou du trafic d’AK-47 – un beau fusil d’assaut -, on va toujours plus loin qu’avec des jérémiades. Le dernier exemple en date n’étonnera personne : les flics européens d’Europol expliquent dans un rapport tout chaud tout frais : « Les mafias italiennes (…) investissent désormais dans le secteur des #énergies renouvelables pour blanchir leurs revenus illégaux et bénéficier des aides européennes ». En tête de gondole, les #éoliennes. Disons sans vouloir vexer les cognes que ce n’est pas réellement un scoop.

April 18 2012

Naples museum director burns art to protest at lack of funding

Antonio Manfredi has already destroyed a painting and vowed to incinerate one artwork every day until his demands are met

It is a logic more often associated with terrorists or trapped and cornered desperadoes: "Meet my demands or another hostage goes the way of the last."

Only in this case the hostages are works of art, and they are being sacrificed with the agreement of their creators.

The director of an art museum in the mafia-infested hinterland of Naples was on Wednesday preparing to destroy a work by an Italian painter and sculptor, Rosaria Matarese, on the second day of a protest intended to draw official attention – and funds – to his beleaguered cultural outpost.

Antonio Manfredi of the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum (Cam) said the privately sponsored institution risked closure unless it received cash from the regional, national or European authorities.

"There's no money for upkeep. We were flooded recently. And there are tons of garbage mounting up outside," Manfredi told the Guardian.

On Tuesday evening, he launched what he termed "an art war to prevent the destruction of culture" by setting light to a painting by a French artist, Séverine Bourguignon, worth up to €10,000 (£8,200).

"This is a war. This is a revolution," Manfredi said. "And in a revolution, there are winners and losers."

He vowed to continue destroying works from the permanent collection at the rate of one a day until someone took notice of Cam's plight.

"There are about 1,000 works, so this could go on for years," he said.

Bourguignon followed the destruction of her work, Promenade, on a Skype link from Paris.

"I feel as if I am in mourning," she said. "It is very sad that they burned my painting. We hoped until the very last minute that someone would step in.

"And now I have to fix in my mind that I will never see that work again. But I hope it'll be worthwhile.

"At least people heard about what is happening in Italy and to culture everywhere. It's been useful."

Manfredi said Matarese would herself put a match to one of her works on Wednesday.

"I tell you, it's not nice setting light to works of art. It's terrible. Each one has its own story," he said.

The Cam, which houses works by European, African and Chinese artists, is in the area outside Naples that provided the setting for Roberto Saviano's non-fiction book Gomorrah, a global bestseller which was made into a film.

Manfredi said he had run into financial difficulties after putting on an exhibition aimed at the local mafia, the Camorra.

"You can't do that and then go and ask for money from companies in the area that are in the grip of the Camorra," he said.

"Some pay [the mobsters] protection money. Others are actually controlled by them."

Manfredi said he wanted not just public money, but official support "because in this area, if you don't have backing from the authorities, you're in serious danger".

Himself an artist, he said that a month ago he had set fire to one of his own works and then sent photocopies of the works in Cam's collection to the chair of the European parliament's culture and education commission, the culture minister in Rome and the regional governor in Naples, warning them of what he intended to do. But none had replied.

"My fear is that they'll let me go ahead and burn the lot," he said. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

March 04 2012

Letizia Battaglia: shooting the mafia

When the photographer returned to Sicily she didn't expect a war – but then the Corleonesi began a killing spree. Twenty years on from the murder of her friend the anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, one of the great photographers of our time talks about her experiences

When Letizia Battaglia returned to Palermo in 1974 from a three-year sojourn in Milan, the city was enjoying a period of relative calm. There was the endemic corruption, obviously, and the usual posse of self-serving politicians. But no one was expecting a bloodbath, least of all Battaglia. She was already a 40-year-old mother of three, enjoying her first steady job as picture editor of a city newspaper. She wasn't looking to cover a war. But war, it seemed, had decided to come looking for her.

Sitting at a low table in her eighth-floor apartment in Palermo, Battaglia, now 76, flicks through some of the iconic images she captured during what Italians call the anni di piombo, the years of (flying) lead. Eighteen years in which the ferocious Corleonesi mafia clan would claim the lives of governors, senior policemen, entire mafia families and, ultimately, two of Battaglia's dearest friends: the anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

This May marks the 20th anniversary of Falcone's assassination by a massive motorway bomb, which also killed the husband of Rosaria Schifani, one of Falcone's bodyguards. In the intervening years the big drug-trafficking wars have shifted, on a blood meridian, from Sicily to the Mexican border. But Battaglia's photographs testify that nothing has changed, that none of this is new. The techniques pioneered by the Corleonesi have proved their efficacy. Maximum violence. Total extermination of your rivals. Intimidation of the state.

If horror still lurches reliably out of Battaglia's pictures, so do the more complicated emotions of pity and despair. To many, these are the qualities that elevate them to the status of art. Battaglia's reputation has steadily risen over the years, attracting awards and exhibition space as far afield as New York and Amsterdam. But long before the foreign prizes and plaudits arrived, she'd already received domestic recognition of a more heartfelt kind: death threats.

That Battaglia ignored the threats, despite being advised to lie low by Falcone himself, comes as no surprise once you've met her. At first she puts you at ease with her husky laugh and friendly little dog, Pippo. Her apartment is dark and cool, the walls adorned with two of her more soothing photographic portraits: a girl, and a dove. Further along is a framed Red Flag (it's from India, sent by a daughter), which seems in keeping with Battaglia's bohemian dress and 60s fringe. Beyond the bookshelves is a balcony, its tiles and pot plants shining in the summer sun. Framed by the door the view could almost be a photo, a sanitised vision of the sunny present.

But once her eyes have fixed on you, her intensity is revealed. Let your gaze drift down to your notebook when she is declaiming something and you are abruptly reprimanded. "Look me in the eyes!" She is deadly serious. She insists on being heard. She smokes a lot.

During the height of the violence Battaglia would get called out at all hours of the day and night, and be on the scene of a murder, pushing through ghoulish crowds of onlookers, before the blood of the dead had begun to dry. It was unrelenting: they would find as many as seven bodies at a time. No sooner had she and her colleagues raced across town on mopeds to cover one killing, than they would receive news of another hit. "Before you'd even dealt with the desperation and suffering of one murder, you were already on the way to another. More blood, more violence."

But she didn't stop. This was never just a job. It was her duty as a citizen, she believed. And it showed. These urgent, often grainy shots were politics of the most incendiary kind. They were asking a question that no one at the time wanted, or dared, to hear: why?

"The worst thing was that we didn't understand at first where this inferno came from, she says. "No one knew about the Corleonesi. No one was getting caught for these crimes. And they always killed the best people. The best judges, the best policemen, the best politicians. It took years to understand what was going on, thanks to the work of Falcone and the testimony of the pentito Tommaso Buscetta."

Battaglia's inability to shield herself from the horrors she witnessed is still evident. At one point she shudders and asks me to put away a photo taken by her then-boyfriend and fellow photographer, Franco Zecchin. The photo in question has an almost surreal quality to it – three bored-looking young men slouch in the back of a bus, looking for all the world as if they haven't realised they're dead yet.

However, Battaglia didn't only photograph corpses. She ranged across Sicily, taking in religious festivals, psychiatric hospitals, crumbling slums and aristocratic salons. The stars of her photos are often young women, quietly enduring their various predicaments. The compassion that shines out of these portraits dispels any doubts one might entertain while wading through the bloodier end of her catalogue. Her art is not exploitative – it is about exploitation.

Though Battaglia describes her own childhood as serene, it was also suffocatingly cloistered. Palermo after the war was not a place for independent-minded girls and her father was possessive. He kept her locked up in the family home. "I couldn't go out because men would bother me on the street, even at 11 years of age," she says. Life with her jealous father soon became intolerable and at the first opportunity she bolted, which in those days meant marriage – at the age of 16, to a prosperous older man who worked in the coffee business.

Three children followed, but little happiness. Twenty-one years would pass before Battaglia finally mustered the courage to walk out. In a country where divorce was still illegal and feminism just a distant rumour, she installed herself and her daughters in the single room of an "alternative" household in Milan. She was penniless but free. Her family considered her ruined.

In Milan she learned her craft as a photo-reporter and soon, despite her family's forebodings, she was enjoying success and all the other things she'd previously lacked in life: creativity, independence, intellectual friends. Among these was the Sicilian author Leonardo Sciascia. It was he who later wrote a catty article that labelled Borsellino as a "professional of the anti-mafia". The article was seized upon by the judge's enemies and used to isolate him. Five years later both he and Falcone were blown up by two separate bombs, one after the other. The judges knew it was coming. As Falcone said: "It is my destiny to take a bullet from the mafia one day. The only thing I don't know is when."

"Sciascia was an adorable person, but he had an outdated idea of the mafia," Battaglia says. "He made a mistake with that article, but I forgave him." As for Falcone and Borsellino, she has only praise. "I have two photographs of each of us together, taken by my daughter. They are the most important photographs of my life. I was proud to know them. These two brave Sicilians died to defend us."

But perhaps the most important friendship she made was with the maverick anti-mafia mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, with whom she served both on the city council and as a deputy in the regional parliament. "Those were the most beautiful years of my life. Better than being in love, or having children."

A price must be paid for this kind of political commitment. It was difficult for her daughters; it was difficult for her, too. When she bought an apartment in one of the roughest parts of town, intending to share the people's problems, she was repeatedly burgled under the eyes of her neighbours who, true to form, never saw a thing. A cynic might suggest this was a classic case of a communist intellectual showing solidarity with the masses, and the masses failing to reciprocate. But at least the thieves didn't steal her negatives. Battaglia's immense archive would provide sensational evidence when the former Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti found himself in court answering charges of links to the mafia. Battaglia, years before, had taken a photo of him during a visit to Sicily which unwittingly showed him in the company of a mafioso. Despite this, the prosecution never succeeded in securing a conviction.

It was a defeat for the anti-mafia movement, one of many. But despite the difficulties of winning cases such as these, Battaglia believes that the answer to defeating Cosa Nostra is deceptively simple. "The mafia can be beaten, but only if people stop voting for dishonest politicians. It's no longer just a Sicilian problem. It's all over Italy."

Battaglia no longer does reportage – "I'm too old to keep walking the streets" – but she regularly visits schools and attends anti-mafia events, however lost the cause may seem sometimes. Is this what people mean when they describe her as impegnata, involved?

"It means setting an example," she says. "It means opposing the mafia in everything that I say and buy and eat. Every person that I meet, every gesture that I make, it's all connected to the need to liberate my country from the mafia." In a city like Palermo, where the vast majority of shops and businesses pay extortion money, that's not as easy as it sounds.

In fact, Battaglia doesn't go out much any more, except in the morning to walk the dog. She avoids contact with the city's middle classes, deemed guilty of what she calls moral absenteeism. She admits: "Palermo is a bit of a prison for me – it holds me down. Every now and then I need to get away. I even moved to Paris for a year and a half, but I couldn't help thinking about Palermo – despite all of its problems, its shit, its corruption, which is even worse now than it was before."

These symptoms of embittered love will be familiar to anyone who has lived in Sicily for an extended period of time. The place is infuriating, self-destructive and very nearly hopeless, but you can't shake it off. As Battaglia's friend Sciascia once said: "I hate and detest Sicily insofar as I love it, and insofar as it does not respond to the kind of love I would like to have for it." © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Shooting the mafia - in pictures

Amazing images of Sicily during one of its bloodiest periods, taken by the great photographer Letizia Battaglia

January 04 2011

Trafic d'organes au Kosovo : un rapport accablant

Le rapport présenté le 16 décembre devant le Conseil de l'Europe par le député suisse Dick Marty sur le trafic d'organes dont auraient été victimes des prisonniers de l'Armée de libération du Kosovo (UCK) a fait l'effet d'une bombe . Pourtant, les allégations contenues dans ce rapport ne sont pas (...) / Kosovo, Criminalité, Justice, Violence, Mafia, Médecine - La valise diplomatique

August 26 2010

Aux Baléares, la fabrique de la corruption

Sur fond de spéculation immobilière, l'histoire édifiante d'un petit parti qui savait si bien monnayer ses faveurs... / Méditerranée, Parti politique, Spéculation, Mafia - 2010/06 / Méditerranée, Parti politique, Spéculation, Mafia - 2010/06

August 23 2010

La grande désillusion des juges italiens

Il y a dix-huit ans, les magistrats italiens lançaient une offensive sans précédent contre la corruption de la classe politique. Leur victoire fut de courte durée. / Italie, Criminalité, Parti politique, Mafia - 2010/06 / Italie, Criminalité, Parti politique, Mafia - 2010/06

December 14 2009

The mafia and me

With photographs that subtly hint at the mafia's enduring influence in contemporary Sicily, Mollica shows that reportage doesn't have to be bloodstained to be powerful

Looking at Mimi Mollica's restrained but evocative photographs of contemporary Sicilian life this week on Burn, the online magazine for emerging photographers, I was reminded once again of the power of dogged reportage. Burn was set up by Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey and, to a great degree, the photography it features adheres to the Magnum ideal of bearing witness.

Mollica's series, which is still ongoing, is entitled Terra Nostra. He has returned again and again to his native Sicily to, as he puts it, "tell of the effects of Mafia in our territory, the people that fight against it on the front line, and the context in which Mafia has grown and rooted its identity". In all of this, he has, unconsciously or otherwise, set himself a hard task. The Mafia are a familiar – some might say over-familiar – subject for photojournalism. Their murderous exploits have even made it into the world of mainstream advertising, courtesy of the ever-controversial Oliviero Toscani, who used one of Letizia Battaglia's graphic photographs of the aftermath of a mafia killing in Palermo in 1976 for a campaign in the 90s. It shows Vincenzo Battaglia's prone body covered in a white sheet, blood oozing into the foreground. His wife kneels beside him and two female relatives look on, mute and stoical.

Back then, it seemed that reportage, however hardcore, might become just another trope for the avaricious advertising industry, in much the same way as the songs of Nick Drake have become, in the words of the standup comedian Stewart Lee, "an advertising byword for off-the-peg meaningfulness". Thankfully, that has not been the case, but photojournalism, like print journalism, is facing a difficult moment in a digital age, where the instant tends to be valued over the reflective.

In the way of all great, understated reportage, Mollica's work repays one's time and attention. It is not in-your-face, which is just as well. For a start, anyone approaching the subject of the Sicilian mafia must, to a degree, work in the shadow of Battaglia, whose relentlessly investigative photojournalism produced an estimated 600,000 images, which she once memorably described as "an archive of blood". Among the less bloody were two photographs of Giulio Andreotti, the disgraced Italian prime minister, in the company of a high-ranking mafioso. In 1993, they were produced as evidence in the criminal investigation against him.

Mollica's subjects are more ordinary, though his images are anything but. In them, the mafia are often no more than a suggested presence: both everywhere and nowhere. "The themes that interest me", he says in a short essay on the website, "are related to society undergoing transitions." Sicily is such a society, but it remains essentially what Mollica calls "pre-modern, in that its deep-rooted traditions of community and family – in all its meanings – endure". The mafia remains a defining – and distorting – presence and, acccording to Mollica's research, imposes extortion on 95% of the region's businesses, essentially maintaining control of the island's economy by coercion and intimidation.

As a photojournalist, Mollica is a master of what could be called the sideways glance. He foregoes Battaglia's unflinching approach for a more measured, and, at times elliptical, look at contemporary Sicilian society. In his most straightforwardly arresting image, a gaunt old man with a scarred and sunken face stares straight at the camera. He looks defiant, almost threatening, but it could simply be a pose. He is holding a folder under his arm, his other hand hidden either behind his back or in the bulging pocket of his jacket. He looks like he has emerged ominously from the shadows of another time.

More mysterious still is the snatched photograph of a middle-age man, bowing towards an arm leisurely outstretched from a car window. He has adopted the kind of formally exaggerated posture that, at one time, would have been reserved for a priest or a magistrate. You sense that the man in the car is neither. In one of the few portraits here, Mollica has captured a bearded, besuited, almost smiling man, perhaps a lawyer or investigator, who is flanked by the torso of another man, the handle of a handgun just visible beneath his T-shirt.

More often than not, though, Mollica and his camera are clandestine observers of everyday Sicilian life. Shadows are a constant, as are film references. One image shows a small, stout man walking purposefully along a crowded street, the harsh sunlight seeming to single him out from the darker shapes around him. He could be walking through the set of a Hitchcock thriller. With Mollica's surreally composed snapshot of a family emerging unsteadily into the light from the darkness of a church, or his dreamy portrait of a girl's face half-hidden behind a carnival mask, you could be looking at a still from a Fellini film.

There is humour here, too, but it tends towards the funereal. An old woman wearing pearls emerges from an antique shop; hovering at her side, in the window's reflection, is a poster of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone. In another, almost comical image, Mollica captures the supine body of a man in swimming trunks who has fallen asleep in the sun on an otherwise deserted stretch of shoreline. As metaphorical images go, it is loaded with possible meanings, all of them pertaining to Sicily and its shadow society.

Mollica's approach is a complex one. He is both a native and an exile, a Sicilian and – by virtue of his camera alone – an outsider. His photojournalism reflects this sense of being a stranger in one's own land, even though it is full of the telling details that only an insider can capture. It suggests that reportage, like reporting, is finding new ways to tell old stories, and that the sideways glance can still be as thought-provoking as the unflinching gaze.

Now see this

Just arrived on the shelves of the more specialist photography bookstores is Useful Photography 009, the latest edition of Erik Kessels's eccentric magazine dedicated to vernacular photography. Previous issues having covered fast-food photography and cow photography – both have their own vernacular style – the editors now turn their attention to the kind of images that only ever appear in instruction manuals aimed at the unskilled or novice photographer. As usual, it makes for an interesting and surreal publication, wherein even botched photographs are revealed to have a strange beauty of their own.

• Useful Photography 009, collected and edited by Hans Aarsman, Claudie de Cleen, Julian Germain, Erik Kessels and Hans van der Meer, is published by KesselsKramer Publishing. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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