The Italianist

Things That Happen in Italy

Archive for November 2009

Roberto Saviano Writes to Berlusconi

with 2 comments

Roberto Saviano is an italian writer who gained worldwide popularity after writing Gomorrah, a book that reveals how criminal organizations in the area around Naples (the “Camorra”) have complete control of the economic and political apparatus. The book also became a movie last year. Since the book was published, Saviano has had to live under constant police protection, since the Camorra has promised he will pay for mentioning their activities and, most of all, their names. This is Saviano’s website (many sections are in english too).

Saviano has become an icon of the fight against the dark side of Italy, that of mafia, illegality, corruption. In keeping with this fight, Saviano has written a public letter to the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, asking him to withdraw the plans of changing the legal system by shortening the statute of limitations of the criminal trial (see previous post on this blog).

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica has launched a petition to support Saviano’s appeal. The link (in english) can be found (and signed) here.


Written by TheItalianist

23/11/2009 at 10:22

On Marrazzo, and Italian Prisons (again)

leave a comment »

The blog has suffered from a technical failure in the past week, so it’s had a hard time in keeping apace with the events. While I’m still waiting for a new battery for my laptop, I think there are two important updates that at least should be mentioned.

Some time ago, the blog covered one of the latest scandal in Italy, about a(nother) prominent politician, Piero Marrazzo, involved in a story of drugs and prostitution. The prostitute he was found with at the time, a Brazilian transsexual called Brenda, was found dead yesterday. The news arrive in coincidence with the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which makes the all story even more upsetting.

This is Brenda:

Brenda died suffocated by a fire in her house. The unofficial version has it she got drunk, and fell asleep. She was taking antidepressants, and some friends from the transsexual community said she was thinking about leaving Italy. The house door was locked from the inside; doctors found no signs of violence on her body; it is not yet clear how the fire started. The only thing which is certain is that Brenda does not live anymore.

And cannot talk anymore.

Another sad follow-up to an earlier post on this blog. On last 6th November, Giuseppe Saladino, 32-year old from Parma, breached the house arrest to which he had been sentenced for stealing coins from parking meters. He had been condemned to one year and two months prison. It is somewhat surprising that the Prime Minister did not highlight the judges’ incompetence in jailing people in this case.

It seems that, on the eve of the 6th November, Giuliano breached the terms of the house arrest. He did not go anywhere far, in fact he went for a walk. Immediately the police caught him, and brought him to jail. That’s very bad for him, because the house arrest, if breached, is automatically turned into jail arrest.

Fifteen hours later, the mother receives a phone call, informing her that Giuliano had died while in prison. He had spent ONE night there. That was enough to kill him. A more detailed account of this story, in Italian, can be found here and here. Unfortunately, the death of Giuliano does not seem to have made it through the media abroad.

Here’s the only picture of Giuliano I managed to find:

Inquiries are taking place for both cases. Maybe, it will turn out that they were both cases of suicide. Most likely, in the case of Giuseppe it will turn out that the drug killed him, or anorexia: as it happened with Stefano Cucchi. As it will happen with the next one. An interesting discussion from The Guardian is here.

No one should get too worried about these incidents though. Let us always remember that Italy is still the country of freedom.

Written by TheItalianist

21/11/2009 at 13:48

Short! In the Name of Law!

leave a comment »

It’s hard not to talk about the last proposal from the Italian Government to reform the judicial system. The legal apparatus represents the core of the present Government’s concerns. The Italian PM has always made clear that he intends to fight, wholeheartedly, against what he sees as the pathology of our society: namely, the judiciary. One of the main faults of the Italian legal system is that there are too many trials, too much money is spent on them, and most of all, they last for too long. This is a serious problem for Italy. So, here is the solution: make the trial shorter! If the accused is not definitely proven guilty after 6 years, the trial ends (with an acquittal, of course) due to the statute of limitations. A full account of this bill can be found here , here, and here

There are different ways to explain this governmental policy. Some (probably judge-related) people say it is the umpteenth act of a man who seeks to avoid the legal consequences of his illegal conduct. Some offer a medical explanation for this new bill (see this interesting blog.) Rather than going into the details of this new law, I think it is important to focus on the Government’s effort to make the legal system “better”.

Berlusconi, as I said, has been the leader of the crusade to extirpate the cancer of legal justice from Italy. He’s been doing this for 15 years. He’s the William Wallace who screams “Freedom!” against the judge who orders him to confess. We should give him credit for this.  


 I think it is important to offer a brief summary of Silvio’s strenuous effort to reform the legal system. (This is going to be a very short selection.) 

 In 1994, Berlusconi has just won the election. Yet, he already knows who his enemy is. Thus, he decides to take action immediately against the worrying number of arrests in Italy. This happens just after the scandal of Bribesville has just wiped out  the italian political class (so to speak: they all, minus one, came back later). The Minister of Justice (at that time), Alfredo Biondi, then proposes a bill  to avoid pre-trail arrest for some crimes, including corruption. Incidentally, the brother of Berlusconi, Paolo, is under charge for corruption.

In  2001, the second Berlusconi Government prescribes that rogatory letters are not be considered valid evidence at a trial. It is a coincidence that this law makes it harder to investigate some dodgy story about Cesare Previti, the (at the time) lawyer of Berlusconi, who is accused of corrupting some judges in Rome. A few months later, another strategic move to fight the judges’ interference with the life of the good citizens: the depenalization of account business fraud. A side-effect of this bill is that Berlusconi’s  involvement in three trials for account fraud is put on hold. 

Later in 2002, the Cirami bill  allows defendants to ask for the transfer of their trial to a different court, when there is ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the judges are biased. Now, it seems that this bill may be a cause of the extreme lengths of criminal trials in Italy and that, therefore, it goes against Berlusconi’s effort to make the legal system go smoothly. Nevermind. Also, as an effect of the Cirami bill, Berlusconi’s trial for bribing judges in the SME affair move towards a quick conclusion.

In 2004, judges are still threatening Italy’s health, trying to put politicians under charge. Hence, the Schifani bill declares the immunity for the 5 highest figures of the State, and the immediate stop to any legal proceeding they might be involved into. The 5 are: the President of the Republic, the President of the Senate, the President of the Chamber, the Prime Minister, the President of the Constitutional Court. When the bill is proposed, only the Prime Minister has (several) legal trials to deal with. Nonetheless, it is clear that the law is meant to be to the country’s benefit. Unfortunately, the judges manage to prevail again and the bill is rejected for violating the Italian Constitution.  

At this point, the strategy becomes clear: we need shorter trials. Hence, the ex-Cirielli bill is issued, with the aim of halving the status of limitation. Again, as an effect of this law, many of the charges Berlusconi is dealing with are cancelled. Also, Cesare Previti, his ex-lawyer, seems to benefit from the bill, to the point that some ignorant still call it “Save Previti Law“. 

The truce does not last for long. Italy is still ill, the pathology (the judges) is still dragging it towards the abyss. Thus the Government makes a new attempt to cure Italy. This is the famous Alfano bill. This law is very similar to the previous, unconstitutional,  Schifani bill, yet it has a crucial difference: it holds not that the 5, but only the 4 highest figures of the State are beyond the law. (The poor President of the Consitutional Court can, instead, be charged for illegal behaviour. Probaly, Alfano must have thought  “That’s why the previous bill was unconstitutional! Gotcha!”). Like with the Schifani bill, when the Alfano bill is proposed the only ‘figure’ who’s got (lots of) trials to deal with is the Prime Minister. This time too, the blindness of the Consitutional Court rejects the bill as violating the principles of the Italian Constitution.

The Italian Government must, at this point, realize that the only effective way to fight the judges is to go back to the attempt to shorten the trials as much as possible. A strategy that seems to have been more successful than trying to establish immunity. Notice that the principle behind the latter idea was “we’ll charge them later”. Now, the policy seems to shift to “we charge them now, briefly and that’s it”. With some provisos, of course.

In fact, the new statutes of limitations would apply only if one has a clean record. Does it mean that those who have not been condemned in the past because of statute of limitations are covered by the law? Yes, it means that. Does it also mean that, if (for example) I’ve been previously found guilty of immigration, the new bill will not apply to me and I will have to go to the whole length? Yes, in the name of law.

But what if I have corrupted judges, yet have not been condemned because of the statutes of limitations? Then I’ll be covered by the bill. Which means: if someone wants to put me under trial now, they’d better be quick. Very quick.

Written by TheItalianist

15/11/2009 at 18:04

The Virtuous Rulers

leave a comment »

Some Italian politicians are quite outspoken. In spite of a common opinion that wants them rather submitted to the main power, they can prove that, when they need to speak up for their ideals, they do not hesitate.

The last 24 hours have offered two displays of the virtue of political praxis. Both regard issues already appeared on this blog, namely the European Court of Human Rights ruling for the removal of crucifixes from Italy’s public schools, and the mysterious death of Stefano Cucchi in prison.

Yesterday, during the TV program “Domenica 5”, the discussion focused on the issue of crucifixes. Among the main participants, the president of the Islamic Centre of Milan, Ali Abu Schwaima, and the leader of the Right Wing Party “The Right”,  Daniela Santanchè. When confronted on the crucial issue of multiculturalism, she eventually decided to speak up, and display her political virtue:

“Enough with talking about equality and respect! – she bursts- Should we not admit that Mohammad was polygamous , since he had 9 wifes, and was a pedophile,  for one of them was 9 year-old? The ECHR should rather be concerned that in Saudi Arabia young girls are given to sheiks! Mohammad was, for our culture, a pe-do-phi-le!!” She looks around, to convey the message clearly to the audience, as she utters these words. “We are not interested in listening to those who worship a pe-do-phi-le!”

Moments of confusions follow. The Muslims who are in the room get quite angry. An old lady shows her support for Santanchè by shaking her head constantly for 12 minutes while the Muslims try to speak. People clap hands to praise Santanchè’s courage to speak up. When the order is partly reestablished, the anchor lady, Barbara D’Urso, says time’s off, sorry Abu Schwaima we need to stop before you can reply. However, there is time for her to attack the ECHR’s decision, and to say proudly: “From this TV studio, from my dressing room, no one is going to remove the crucifix!”. More details of this confrontation can be found here, and a video of it is here.

This is Daniela Santanchè:


She is famous for her campaign to liberate women. Her programme comprises the defeat of two main symbols of women slavery:

a) Prostitution. In order to emancipate women from the slavery of selling their body in the streets, Santanchè says we need to start legal brothels.  In them, women will (presumably) rather make love, and also have some freshly made tea or coffee. To those who point out that this is not much of a liberation from being used as a commodity, and that Santanchè seems concerned simply with ‘cleaning the streets’, she (virtuously) replies with no hesitation:


The second branch of the project for women’s liberation from slavery is to abolish the burqa. The latter, for Santanchè, is a symbol of oppression imposed by men. She refers to article 152 of the Penal Code, from 1975, which forbids “taking part in public events, in a place open to the public, wearing helmets, or with part or all the face covered in any way that can make it difficult to identify the person.” 

On this second part of the project, things got a bit rough for her on last 20th September.  Santanchè organised a protest in Milan in coincidence with Muslim celebration for the end of Ramadan. She claims to have been physically attacked by Muslims, apparently enraged by her attempt to take off the burqa from a woman taking part in the celebration. This caused outrage throughout Italy, to what was seen as the proof of Muslims’ unwillingness to integrate in Italy. (The meaning of “integration” being, as it normally happens in cases like these,  “abandonment of one’s own culture”.)

Some say that the aggression never took place and that, in fact, Santanchè made the story up, for propagandistic reasons. Those who hold this view must surely be polygamous and pedophile. Readers can test whether they are polygamous and/or pedophile too, by looking at the video-footage of “the aggression” and judge if Santanchè did make it up or not.

So much for the lady. A brief note about men.

Carlo Giovanardi is the Deputy Minister from PDL, the Right-Wing Party actually ruling Italy. By looking at his website, I discover that, with reference to the issue of the crucifixes, he deems the ECHR’s ruling “worth a laugh”. In fact, “in all public offices there is a picture of the President of the Italian Republic”, and no one sees in that a violation of any right.

To be honest, I think I would have felt violated if, when I was at school, I had had to look at this picture everyday:


Oh, and by the way, this is Giovanardi:


His picture would have probably done even more damage.

Anyway, this is not the point. This morning Giovanardi was on Radio 24. He too felt he had to show his political virtue and make his view clear to the public. Hence, he gave his verdict about the story of Stefano Cucchi, who died after being arrested, while still in police custody, a few weeks ago. Giovanardi pointed out that Cucchi died because of anorexia. He (Cucchi) was a drug dealer, and a drug addict: also, he weighed only 47 kg. That’s why he died.

One thing should be said, following from Giovanardi’s comment. If you have any friend with anorexia, please don’t abandon them. Otherwise, they might end up like Stefano, killed by anorexia.

We should look at these as two examples of cases in which politicians do indeed stand up and make their voice heard. Enough with saying that there is no real freedom of speech in Italy. Both Santanche’ and Giovanardi’s cases show that, when the stakes are high, no italian politician will accept to shut up.

Visit our country

with 3 comments

This blog has been quite critical of Italy so far. I am afraid people abroad may start thinking that Italy is a bad place not worth visiting. So, I feel I should invert this trend, and try to make justice to Italy’s beauty.

Yet, I find myself to be still in need of the right words, the right skills. I therefore appeal to Francesco Rutelli, Rome’s ex- lord mayor and, most of all, Berlusconi’s strenuous opponent in the 2001 election as Prime Minister (he lost), to inspire would-be visitors. This is Rutelli:


What is he looking at? No one can tell.

Listen to him, and then go pack your bags.

Written by TheItalianist

07/11/2009 at 22:54

Crucifixes and crucifictions

with 8 comments

Both national and international news are reporting a decision of the European Court of Human Rights  against crucifixes in public schools in Italy. The ruling has caused an immediate outcry of anger and disdain towards what, for many, is a threat to Italy’s cultural foundations. TheECHR specifies that the presence of the crucifix, “which is impossible not to notice in classroom,could be easily interpreted by students of any age as a religious symbol”; and this would make them feel they are being educated in an environment carrying the mark of a specific religion. This, in turn, would violate “the right of the parents to educate children as to their own wishes”, and also the liberty of religions of pupils. More details of this story can be found here, here and here.

Italian politicians have joined their voices in joining the Vatican’s voice in condemning the ECHR’s decision. The Vatican has commented that the ruling is “myopic and misled”. A full version (in italian) can be found on the CEI website. Politicians have followed suit.

Here’s a brief selection of these comments. While reading them, keep in mind Italy is ruled by Berlusconi. The italian magazine Oggi published last year some pictures of the italian PM discussing catholic values with the young generations, warning them of the risk of losing our cultural foundations.






Yes, that’s him.








Gabriella Carlucci, from PDL, the right-wing coalition, underlines that “the crucifix is a symbol of Italy’s history and culture, hence of our country’s identity, and it constitutes the symbol of principles of equality, tolerance, and our State’s secularism”. Someone might spot a contradiction in the appeal to secularism to defend the crucifix. But she has made her point. For those of you who don’t know her, here’s a picture of Carlucci:



















Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of the more popular Benito (the one on the left in this picture), has commented that the ECHR’s decision tends to “cancel our Christian roots,  and to block a process of real integration. We are creating an identity-less Europe. Therefore, it is now urgent to insert the principles of Christianity in our Constitution”. One might point out that if those principles are not in the Constitution, there must be a reason. But she has made her point too. Here’s a picture of a younger Alessandra campaigning for European identity:














Next comes Mara Carfagna, Italy’s charming Minister for Equal Opportunities: “The crucifix is not only a religious symbol, but it’s also a testimony of a thousand-year tradition, of values shared but the entire Italian population.” She then adds: ” Others, and surely not the presence of a crucifix in classrooms, are the real limitations to individual liberty. I am thinking of the burqa and the niqab.” Well said, Minister of Equal Opportunities. It’s hard to find a picture that gives the right credit to the values we all share, and that she embodies. I try this one anyway:















Davide Boni, from the Northern League, warns that ” people who cancel their own history are doomed to lose themselves, selling themselves to cultures which are stranger to them. [These cultures] share nothing with those who took part in building and raising not only our own country but Europe itself. But now, that very Europe expects to wipe the slate clean.”

Boni has always been committed to the idea of preserving the values of our people: he is the mind behind the Northern Leagues’ proposal to ban kebab and foreign food from italian cities. This is Davide, the polenta supporter:






As his t-shirt points out, “Women from the Northern League are the best”.






Faced with the ECHR’s ruling, Maurizio Gasparri wonders: “What kind of Europe is this? Surely it is not by denying the identity or history of an entire people that minorities’ rights are guaranteed . We are faced with a lay drift that has nothing to do with religious freedom. Italy is a country that bases, and recognizes, itself in the values of Christianity. The crucifix is a symbol of all that. We reclaim its presence in the schools as in all the institutional places.” He concludes, “We will consider the issue of whether to maintain those institutions [the European Union?] that cost us so much.” This is Gasparri:








Ups, I got confused, sorry. I mean, this is Gasparri:









When Italy declared illegal immigration to be a crime, Gasparri said he was proud of that decision. However, the Vatican criticised the Government’s decision as being against the values of Christianity. To make things even, Gasparri probably suggested that every boat shipping immigrants to Italy should have its crucifix. (He didn’t, actually.)

Hard times, then, for our traditions. A Facebook group was born immediately after the ECHR’s decision became public. The group’s name is  “You take the crucifix off the wall? I’ll cut your hands off!”. (“Tu stacchi il crocifisso dal muro? E io ti stacco le mani!”). An updated version of the Christian value, in which we all recognise ourselves, “if a man slaps your cheek, offer him the other cheek to slap”.