How Ndrangheta Dominated the Drug Trade

La Cicciolina, sans exposed breasts.

The following was written by Charles DeLucca, our itinerant journalist, who occasionally files reports with Cosa Nostra News based on his observations and thoughts regarding organized crime, Italian-style, in all its various guises and locals.

Most of the time, when I mention I am of Italian nationality, people ask me about every single issue relating to Italy. From Berlusconi to La Cicciolina (a Hungarian-born Italian porn star, politician and singer, famous for delivering political speeches with her breasts exposed).

They also ask my about the dynamics of organized crime. Certain topics are off limits because it’s really, really difficult to explain the truth about certain groups.

For instance, most of what we know about the American Cosa Nostra is from the movies, TV and pentitis (plural for “those who repent”; rats, turncoats, in other words).

Nobody knew much about la Camorra until Robert Saviano published Gomorrah in 2006. Then a film and television series followed, of course. (Here’s a clip, enjoy.)

What can you say about La ´Ndrangheta?

It is complicated. As any person in Calabria would say: “La ´Ndrangheta é una realta’ sconosciuta e pericolosa.” (“The Ndrangheta is unknown and dangerous.”)

My personal experience with the Calabrians is short. One time while in Rome, I visited a good Calabrian restaurant called La Rampa (it’s on the corner of Piazza di Spagna). This restaurant has a specific and unique characteristic: you can only pay in cash, and the waiters speak only in Calabrian dialect. Of course, when they heard my Neapolitan accent, I was asked to leave.

Some Zetas bosses were arrested last year. They were found
with a few weapons on them.

Later, in 2009, this headline caught my attention: “Pasquale Manfredi, a Calabrese boss of the clan Nicosia-Manfredi, (in charge of Isola Capo Rizzuto á Crotone) was caught by Italian pólice because of his communications in FaceBook.”

Can you believe that?

While I was in Argentina, I was amazed to hear that various n’drinas (pockets of calabrian guys) opérate in Buenos Aires. I was trying to establish a beachhead for my people, and I realized the market was taken.

In Argentina, the strongest Calabrian clan is the Ansaldi and the Piromalli. In 2011, a Calabrian boss by the name of Pietro Labate was arrested. He was the boss in charge of drug trafficking from the Italian port of Gioia Tauro. Interesting story. Italian pólice found a group of phone numbers all with Méxican area codes. Yes, in 2011 the Calabrians started to work with the paramilitary Cartel of Los Zetas.

We have the idea that Calabrians are more secretive that any other Italian organized crime group. They don’t even like the idea of sharing the same oxygen with Sicilians or Neapolitans. They hardly make any attempt to speak Italian, only their very own dialect. If Italian American thought that zips in the 70’s and 80’s were arrogant, well.... Calabrians keep their nose up. Even among paisans. But at the same time, they are pragmatic.

Pablo Escobar, said to be the one Cartel lord who earned
the respect of the Mafias.
Italian-American Mafiosi, Sicilians and Neapolitans, we always thought that the Cartels were really nothing more that organized groups of nobodies… (excluding Pablo Escobar, no Latin kingpin was considered equal to a Mafioso). But the Calabrians knew how to read the changing times. When the Colombians lost their power (many Americans still believe that the Colombian Cartels are as powerful as they were during the days of Escobar) the Calabrians started to work with the most violent Mexican Cartels: The Familia Michocana (around 200 of its members where arrested in Denver about three years ago, with a former local sheriff and a group of ex-cops) and, of course, the infamous Zetas. Yes, those crazy bastards that took pleasure in taking heads on any given Sunday. Calabrians put aside any local pride and, what did they get?

As Saviano argues in his new book “Zero Zero Zero” (published last year), L´Ndrangheta supplies drugs to markets in New York, Paris, Madrid, Rome and any other place in Europe because they have exclusive suppliers, the Mexican Cartels. Mexican Cartels buy the drug from Colombian producers; once in Panama they have the power, connections and money to buy every single country from Central American up to México....and from there, the materials go to Europe. What about “designer drugs,” you say? Most chemicals used in those drugs made in California and Chicago are made by the Sinaloa Cartel, and they are also working with the Calabrians.

Today, we are truly living in a “global” world. The time to be pragmatic is now.

Alleged Ndrangheta member, arrested for cheating at cards?
About seven years ago, I was in México: Monterrey and Juárez. I was amazed by the local violence, and I was stunned to see that the Cartels were taking Mexican-American gangs into México and training them. You can imagine those crazy bastards creating hell in any American city where cops have no idea what they are up against—or will be, one day.

In today’s world, what does it take to survive in “the life?” First, secrecy is required. And second, brutality, but not the crazy kind. Simply put: Calabrians have the capacity to be brutal but they know when to stop.

In general terms, the one who blinks first, loses.

There are no more slices for the taking, because the Calabrians have taken the entire cake for themselves.


  1. If Mr. De Lucca argues that the Cartel´s are so powerphul, Can he explain me why the capture of Mexico´s Kingpin Joquin Guzman came so easily? No colateral violence so far. No diferent that when the FED´s capture any US cosa nostra boss.

    1. Joaquin Guzman Loera was on the run for 13 years as one of the most wanted fugitives in the world. This was after escaping from prison. I don't see how he was captured so easily. I'm sure lots of manpower, time and money were involved in his capture.

  2. It is good to see Charles DeLucca writing in your blog again Ed. I've always enjoyed his articles. He offers a bit of a different and interesting view of things regarding the underworld in Italy.

  3. Thank you -- and Charley thanks you too!

  4. ´Corazza ´ DeLucca¨Feb 26, 2014, 12:15:00 AM

    Grazie a tutti.... It was Ed´s idea to bring me here. Thank to you Ed.
    On the topic of Joaquin Guzmán, Chicago public enemy #1 and the most wanted person after Bin Laden, is true, as in many cases with Camorra bosses: When no bullet is fired to catch a big fish, there is a treason. In Naples, when this happens we say that: he was ´given to´ , he was ´put´ in to the hands of the pólice. You will say in neapolitan dialect: o' ha miso ... which is in italian, ´lo ha messo ´.

  5. na' scrittùr cassalessi e' cosè ca' nun dovrèbb ......... site mo' in Americà? Credò e' sapé ... e sul pecché acciro cu o' sguàrd e rispètt o' toje passàt turbolentò, ha ritt bastà ...

  6. Sì, song casalessì. E pure Io acciro cu e' suoì uocchi ...

  7. Bello Guaglione Corazza De Lucca,
    This is your friend Old-School Anonymous. Funny that you mention Argentina. A lot of my family who originated from Torre Del Greco and Pusilleco went there before World War II. I still have many cousins there. I was in Buenos Aires in 2000. With the strong southern Italian influence there I felt like I was in Brooklyn in the 1970's. Not too long ago I think a Camorra boss was caught down there, not to mention the brother of Tomasso Buscetta was killed down there after his brother became an informant. He owned a gelateria in Buenos Aires. There was a café/social club in a part of Northern NJ that is still in existence today run by Sicilians from a couple of different towns outside of Palermo. It just so happens that people of those towns went to USA and to Argentina years ago, and because we had this connection (of course, an introduction was made) I could go there anytime and have coffee there and play briscola. I have to say they weren't too bad a people, but I have to say that the Calabrese definitely seem more clannish and tight. I guess in the end it pays to be "Testa Dura." One of my Neapolitan uncles in Argentina married a Calabrese almost 60 years ago and her brother still only speaks Calabrese dialact.
    Old School - Anonymous

  8. Caro Amico á la vecchia scuola ...

    Buenos Aires is Europe. And the way people is, mostly in Buenos Aires is italian. Even the accent, is spanish spoken with italian accent. You would find many words of italian origin in the common way of speaking. Its for sure, I place to visit specially if you are of italian origin.

    Yet, I have to make the point that most of the italian inmigration that came to Buenos Aires came from the north: Piemontese, Genovese, Venezzia. But still, you can feel the italian way. But because the influence is mostly polentoni or padania, there was never a mafia born an raised in Buenos Aires. It had to come in recent years.


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