Greece’s own Mafia

It’s an open secret that the wider area of Zoniana has for years been beyond the control of state authority. In fact, it has enjoyed relative impunity from state officials. It took an apparent misunderstanding, which led to the wounding of three police officers, for the rest of the country to find out. Two illegal traditions survive in the mountains of Crete: gun ownership and livestock theft. This is the rather colorful cause of a phenomenon that has turned into something much more dangerous. Dramatic as it may sound, the tough, rural and closed community of Zoniana constitutes a hotbed for the growth of southern Italy-style crime. Livestock theft has gradually been replaced by drug trafficking. The drug barons are a minority of course, but one that certainly enjoys the backing, or at least tolerance of the majority of locals. Traditional codes ensure solidarity, so the locals say nothing to outsiders. The wrongdoers enjoy impunity for another reason: The wealth from their illegal activity is spread around. More striking than the behavior of the local community is the complete tolerance of the state. Its tolerance is not innocent. It resembles, albeit on a smaller scale, the network of entangled interests that bring together criminals, politicians, police officers and judges in Italy. Much responsibility also lies with local politicians who have kept silent all these years. Their belated remarks reek with hypocrisy. If it wishes to clamping down on the Zoniana state-within-a-state, the government must establish a strong police presence in the area. Also, it must conduct a thorough financial inspection to trace money from criminal activity, and perhaps money that went into the pockets of state officials. Or the police raid launched yesterday will be relegated to a pointless publicity stunt.