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Program Information
 The Secret Truth 
 Zero Zero Zero - by cocaine mafia insider Roberto Saviano
 Weekly Program
 Susan Lindauer, Tony Gosling
 Bristol Broadband Co-operative  
 For non-profit use only.
 Attribution No Derivatives (by-nd) 
 No Advisories - program content screened and verified.
Zero Zero Zero
by Roberto Saviano

The man who exposed the lie of the war on drugs
Roberto Saviano already lives under armed guard after writing about the Neapolitan mafia. Now he is determined to uncover capitalism’s complicity with the narco-lords of South America

...“So the story of narco-traffic,” he says now, “is not something that happens far away. People like to think of this disgusting violence as something distant, but it’s not. Our entire economy is infused with this narrative.”

For some reason, he says, the Anglo-Saxon world is slower to understand the innate criminality of the “legal” system than Latin societies. “I think the Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-American world is infused by a kind of Calvinist positivism; people want to believe in the health of their society,” says Saviano, even though “what this all means is that, for instance, the City of London is a far more important centre for laundering criminal money than the Cayman Islands”.

The mafia, he argues, has a particular way of entrenching its presence and increasing its strength, in a manner almost Darwinian, evolutionary: “the force of the mafia is this. If a mafioso messes up, he dies – and thus they develop a system of survival. When they make a mistake, they are killed and replaced by someone even more ruthless, so that the organisation becomes even stronger.”

At the start of this year, writing from New York, Saviano described his threatened life under guard in our sister paper, the Guardian, and in this book that followed he asks himself, poignantly: “Is it really worth it?”

“I write about Naples, but Naples plugs her ears,” he laments. It is, he writes, “my fault if the articles I keep writing about the blood spilled in the cocaine markets fall upon deaf ears”. Any reporter or writer on these subjects feels a version of these feelings, but – apart from our colleagues in Mexico or Colombia – with so much less to pay than Saviano has paid: with his liberty and security.

“Sometimes I think I’m obsessed,” he reflects in the book, but “other times I’m convinced these stories are a way of telling the truth”. Here we have it. Whether obsessed or not, Saviano realises the brutal truth: that to understand narco-traffic is to understand the modern world. “You can’t understand how the global economy functions if you don’t understand narco-traffic”, he says in conversation.

A remarkable passage in Zero Zero Zero explains why: a transcription of an FBI tape recording of a seasoned Italian mafioso in New York schooling young Mexican footsoldiers in the difference between law and “the rules”. Laws are there to be broken, he urges, but the rules of the organisation are sacrosanct, on pain of death. “The law is supposed to be for everybody,” Saviano tells me, “but the rules are made by the so-called men of honour. This is how narco-traffic explains the world, by embracing all the contradictions of the world. To succeed in narco-traffic, you apply the rules to break the law. And today, any big corporation can only succeed if it adopts the same principle – if its rules demand that it break the law.”

Zero Zero Zero is published by Allen Lane (£20). Click here to order a copy for £16

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