Silvana Fucito

Silvana Fucito: leading the Neapolitan campaign to say “Basta Racket”.

(published 16th May, 2008 on the Radio Netherlands Worldwide website)

Here in Italy, most people associate Naples with two words which are, ironically, almost identical: pizza and pizzo. While the former is a source of local gastronomic pride, il pizzo – the Italian word for protection money – casts a shadow of shame over the vibrant, southern city.

Il pizzo is the grass-roots manifestation of the insidious presence of the mafia: in Naples known as the Camorra. For shop-owners like Silvana Fucito and her husband, the Camorra’s existence was always tolerated, as long as it didn’t over-step the boundaries. A certain level of fear and intimidation was considered acceptable. Now Silvana admits this was wrong. She says there is no such thing as an acceptable level of intimidation. Nor should it be suffered simply because everybody else in the neighbourhood has to suffer it too. When Silvana Fucito took the extraordinarily brave step of standing up to her aggressors, she faced and overcame that intimidation.

Since Silvana won her case, she has been on a mission. When she decided to report and testify against the camorristi who burned down her shop, she saw how her personal story of courage inspired others. There are now about 1,000 members working for the regional anti-racket associations, all of whom are voluntary. Like Silvana, they help others going through situations similar to those they have experienced, and there’s a specialist group offering advice over the phone.

At the head office in chaotic, downtown Naples there are posters on the walls with large, white letters bearing their slogan: Basta Racket. Enough of the racket. Non sei più solo. You are no longer alone. Although the Camorra is still very much a part of the fabric of Neapolitan society, Silvana hopes that one day this will change, and there will come a time when her city will only be associated with la pizza.

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