Chemical Weapons Transfer to Take Place in Mafia Hub

Locals worried about effect on environment, health
By Shelley Hazen,  Newser User
Posted Jul 1, 2014 5:27 PM CDT
The MV Cape Ray is seen through port cranes as it arrives at Gioia Tauro port, southern Italy, Tuesday, July 1, 2014.   (AP Photo/Adriana Sapone)

(Newser) – The most lethal chemical weapons in Syria’s arsenal will be transferred onto the US Navy ship MV Cape Ray tomorrow, but contamination isn’t the only concern, reports the Daily Beast. The transfer of 1,300 tons of chemical weapons from the Danish vessel Ark Futura, including mustard gas and the ingredients for sarin nerve gas, will take place in Gioia Tauro, Italy, an impoverished port and hub of the Calabrian mafia. According to the AP, the Cape Ray will destroy the weapons in international waters—an unprecedented but, officials say, safe process that results in no vapor or water runoff. AP explains the procedure, overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons: Two machines in the cargo hold will mix the chemicals with hot water and other chemicals to make the weapons inert. This will take 60 days, and the resulting industrial waste will be disposed of by specialized companies in Germany and Finland.

But Italian locals aren’t completely happy—they are concerned about the transfer's effect on the environment and their health, The Local reports, noting that Albania, Norway, Belgium, and France all declined to be the site of the transfer. And then there's that mafia connection. The Daily Beast calls the city Italy’s most dangerous port and notes that the mafia there, known as 'Ndrangheta, has been linked to government corruption and the illegal arms trade; the relatively small city was, at one point, home to more murders than New York City. 'Ndrangheta also handles more than 80% of Europe’s cocaine—much of it through Gioia Tauro specifically. Officials will close off the port during the transfer, and insist the mafia will not pose a threat. (Read more Syria stories.)

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