Europe, Globe, Human Rights, Politiks

Corsica… A new gangland?

The beaches of France’s “île de beauté,” or “isle of beauty,” have been stained red by the blood of murder victims. The tiny island with the highest per- capita murder rate in Europe

 

Corsica… A gangland 8Angela Smith

 

France takes pride in the picturesque, Mediterranean island of Corsica, which generates millions in tourism revenue each year, however, just beyond the fanciest resort areas and shopping malls lays a dangerous, gang- filled warzone which has made the tiny island, with only 300,000 inhabitants, one of the deadliest in the world.

Yet, the violence that has been happening in Corsica is not new. The island has been known for both its beauty and hostility for decades. The crime was previously due to the nationalist movement however, these new strains of violence have occurred because of gangs and drug trafficking.

Corsica… A gangland 12Due to these causes, there have been around 20 to 25 murders a year on the island for the past decade, and some have occurred in broad daylight. Even tourist zones are beginning to become regular crime scenes. Luckily, no tourists have been killed in recent crimes, which has been keeping them coming to the island, despite the danger.

Recently, there was a report of people being gunned down right outside of a café on a breezy afternoon, as well as a report that the head of the chamber of commerce, Jacques Nacer, was shot and killed by a masked gunman while he was closing up his retail shop in November of 2012. He was not safe from the violence, even though his shop was very near the local police station.

Just before Nacer’s murder, Antoine Sollacaro was killed when he stopped at a petrol station on his way to work in October 2012. Sollacaro was a well- known lawyer in Corsica and his killers still have not been found.

Jacques Nacer
Jacques Nacer

This was the first murder of a lawyer that France has seen in over 20 years and chances are that Sollacaro’s murderers will never be found or prosecuted; the island has a solved murder rate of 55 per cent, even though there have been campaigns and funding rose to help solve this problem.

The reoccurrence of violent events such as these has caused locals to notice just how blatant and unashamed these criminals have been while committing these crimes; and the blame is being put on “omerta,” which is a code of silence.

Omerta keeps the people quiet. Even if they know what happened, locals will not speak to authorities because they have no way to protect themselves against a gang if they are exposed. They know that authorities have no way of keeping them safe after they have spoken up.

Antoine Sollacaro
Antoine Sollacaro

This fuels the power of the gangs and continues to make policing the island very difficult.

Corsica’s history of violence began in the 1970s, when groups of militant separatists, such as the FLNC, began bombing hotels and resort areas. They fought against French control over the island, however, these kinds of attacks became fewer after the 1990s, when many of the members fled the country or were imprisoned.

After they had become rich off their illegal trades, Gang members returned to Corsica. Real estate is very expensive, and land prices have risen quite a few times in the past years.

Corsica… A gangland 11These gang members were one of the few groups that were able to afford land on the island.

Interestingly, since the island has a relatively small financial output, it is well known that the majority of the high- end vehicles that are seen on the island belong to wealthy gang members. Although they are known to be gangsters, little is done to prosecute them.

Now, illegal operations are run out of Corsica and there is constant gang violence and organized crime over territory and the control of the black market, which has been on the rise since 2006. Gang- related tourism has also increased greatly in recent years.

Corsica… A gangland 13In October 2012, soon after Sollacaro’s murder, the French government made a 10- point emergency plan in order to fight against the violence.

Some parts of this plan included more investigating judges being appointed, better cooperation among the different branches of the security services and a more watchful eye being kept on dealings that go on within the island.

However, the violence continues to make Corsica an island filled with fear and the sight of murder scenes has become normal. Even elected officials, afraid to attempt to alleviate the situation, receive death threats and are under the control of the powerful gang leaders.

There is still hope, however, that the French authorities will crack down on the violence and allow the island of Corsica to become a truly beautiful and secure place for its people.

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