We believe that it is time that the Albanian government declares war on organized crime.
This was the declaration of US Ambassador Donald Lu a few days ago during a speech at the School of the Magistrates.
After the speech, the media for the most part widely covered Lu’s description of the state of crime in Albania, the presence of criminal clans involved in trafficking and serious crimes, and especially the fact that the Ambassador mentioned several of the most notorious figures of the underworld by name. But irrespective of this media enthusiasm, the situation described by the Ambassador is not new to anyone, nor are the names he mentioned uttered for the first time in public.
What the media didn’t notice was the fact that Ambassador Lu didn’t express any sort of criticism, direct or indirect, toward the government or Prime Minister Edi Rama as regards this state of crime. On the contrary, he indirectly expressed his trust that the Rama government would combat crime.
The position of Ambassador Lu is clear: Albania has truly turned into a center for crime, where drugs, weapons, and people are trafficked; where money is laundered thanks to a corruption that uncontrollably blossoms; where a drug lord like Klement Balili isn’t arrested even though wanted by the US government; where someone locked away for life like Lulzim Berisha is liberated in a scandalous way and remains free even when the scandal is discovered; where a criminal like Emiljano Shullazi runs his drug and arms trafficking network from his prison cell; where Parliament is filled with criminals – but none of this has to do with Edi Rama or with his government.
The Ambassador believes the theory that a country may have widespread crime and corruption while its rulers remain untainted by it and are innocent; that in country drugs can flourish and criminals are allowed to wander free, but that its Prime Minister is powerless in the face of this reality, because the real responsibility lies with the prosecutors, judges, and some undefined police officers.
In his speech the Ambassador even incomprehensibly put the murder of judge Fildeze Hafizi on the account of the justice system, even though in fact the justice system had convicted the murderer. He was fact released not by the judiciary, but through an amnesty law passed by the Rama government leading up to the elections.
Nearly everything that the Ambassador said (except for the names of three criminals) looked exactly like the rhetoric and approach also used by Prime Minister Rama.
Just like the Prime Minister, Ambassador Lu referred constantly to the Albanian people in his speech. He congratulated the people for removing the criminals from Parliament – even though in fact Edi Rama put those criminals in Parliament and most of them were removed thanks to the insistence of the opposition. Ambassador Lu also congratulated the people for its accomplishments in the battle against cannabis, a problem that neither the Ambassador nor the Prime Minister accepted (or even mentioned) as a problem. But now suddenly both he and Prime Minister Rama proclaim the great accomplishments and progress made in the battle against cannabis, without offering any proof of such progress.
In this way Ambassador Lu reinforces the euphoric propaganda of Prime Minister Rama.
And it’s working. Just like the propaganda about the judicial reform.
During his first four years in government, Edi Rama managed to convince the majority of Albanians and internationals that for anything bad the judges and prosecutors are to blame and that the so-called judicial reform would be the salvation of the country.
In this way he manage to concentrate all the attention of politics, the media, the public, and the international community on the judicial reform – which ended up with a series of institutionally and legally problematic and amateurish regulations – while Albania became covered in drugs, crime numbers exploded, and corruption was dropped from their field of vision.
And no one seriously addressed drugs, crime, and corruption; all were waiting for the miracle of judicial reform.
Now that everyone understands that the judicial reform is more of a game than an actual reform, and will not bring any fundamental change; now that the reality of drugs throughout the country is clear to all; now that corruption, maladministration, and the absence of hope are no longer denied by even the government itself, Edi Rama has start another great propaganda operation: blaming these problems on bureaucrats, simple civil servants fro the lower and middle cadres, as well as declaring “war” on them in the name of the people.
As a part of this propaganda campaign, Rama has in recent week targeted his attacks on asset registry directors, asset legalization directors, hospital directors, customs and tax officials and inspectors, etc. He fired some of them in spectacular fashion on live television and enforced the resignation of hospital directors and others through open threats – all of this in complete violation of the administrative regulations.
The US Ambassador now appears to follow Rama’s line by explaining the crime situation in the country, as shown by his speech in the School of Magistrates, during which he blamed the judicial system, police officers and prosecutors, but not the government. Ambassador Lu even rushed to ask the government to declare war also on this front, to save the country from criminals who profit from low-level, incapable police officers and other employees.
In order not to leave any possibility for misunderstanding his words as a criticism of the Prime Minister or the government, Ambassador Lu went immediately after his speech to the office of Minister of Interior Affairs Fatmir Xhafaj, followed by a crowd of cameras which uninterruptedly recorded this important event for our national security.
The implication was clear: After giving Albania the historic judicial reform, the trio Lu–Rama–Xhafaj would now liberate the Albanian people from organized crime.
For Ambassador Lu this “war” is a natural continuation of the judicial reform because, as he said in his speech, organized crime is “the other great challenge of the judicial system.” And who could better confront the next challenge after the judicial reform than those who implemented it: Lu, Rama, and Xhafaj.
It appears that Ambassador Lu, whose mandate will end in December (although he asked an extension until Summer 2018), will be at the side of Edi Rama and his way of governing until the very end.