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Article on the Sidney Morning Herald

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The Italianist has made it into the national press – here’s my article on Berlusconi’s resignation, which appears on today’s SMH.

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Written by TheItalianist

16/11/2011 at 02:20

Cosa Nostra

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This blog seems obsessed with Berlusconi. It is, in fact. I would rather write about other stuff, but the actuality still puts the Italian Prime Minister under the spotlight.

Berlusconi’s reluctance to deal with the courtroom is well-known. The blog has already devoted a few posts to describing his constant attempts to avoid charges, escape questions, delegitimize judges and decriminalize a series of once-upon-a-time illegal practices. Every time the judges make some threatening sound towards the PM, they face public uproar on the media. “Giustizia a orologeria!” (“Clockwork justice!”), is the mantra that all the members of PDL repeat constantly on TV and on the press. This aims to convey the warning that the judges – being (according to the PDL) communists- are constantly plotting against Berlusconi to make him fall. In the past days, more warnings for ‘clockwork justice’ are being sent over the italian media: the judges are getting too close again. We need to stop them! This time though, there is less reason to feel simply depressed, almost bored by another episode of the soap opera Berlusconi-Law. This time, a word has been mentioned, a word that is heavier than ‘corruption’, ‘anti-constitutional’, ‘immoral’. The word is mafia.

Look at this man:

His name is Marcello Dell’Utri. As the picture shows, he’s very good at climbing the ladder. To the point that, from his humble origins in Sicily, he’s climbed up, up, up till the Parliament, where he now sits in the Senate, with the PDL. For a very telling biographical sketch of Dell’Utri, click here. In 2004, Dell’Utri was condemned to 9 years imprisonment for complicity with the Mafia. The verdict was based on the following motivations:

” The number of activities carried out by Dell’Utri, given his causal role in them, amounts to a concrete, voluntary, conscious, specific and precious contribution to the maintenance, consolidating and strengthening of Cosa Nostra, which was also offered the opportunity, still through Dell’Utri’s mediation, to get in touch with relevant economic and financial groups, thus being able to pursue its illicit ends, both the merely economic and the political ones“. (translated from it.wikipedia.org). Dell’Utri today is still a member of the Senate. He has appealed against the verdict.

This story starts from here. The trial against Dell’Utri is still running, and tomorrow an important witness is due to talk: the mafia boss Gaspare Spatuzza. Spatuzza is facing a life sentence for the killing of father Pino Puglisi, a priest who was preaching against the mafia. Also, he has been sentenced to life for being the material executor of the terrorist attack in Florence, on 27th May 1993, in which a whole family died and more than 40 people were injured. That happened during the years 1992-1993, when the mafia carried out a series of dramatic attacks in Italy.

On 23rd May 1992, Cosa Nostra blew up an entire chunk of a motorway, to kill the judge  Giuseppe Falcone. Look at what they did:

Two months later, 19th July, they blew up an entire street of Palermo to kill the judge Paolo Borsellino:

Both massacres happened in Sicily. In 1993 though, bombs went off in the mainland of Italy as well. One in Rome, in May; another one in Florence; a third one in Milan, in July. Why was the mafia causing all this mayhem along the country? What did they want?

It was a message to the State. After the big scandal that (temporarily..) wiped out most of Italy’s political class, the Christian Democratic Party (DC) that ruled for 50 years (see the movie Il Divo for a great portrait of Italian politics under DC rule) lost control of the country. The Mafia too lost a valid ally: at the same time, after the killing of Falcone and Borsellino, the Italian Government enacted a series of policies to block Cosa Nostra’s attacks against the institutions. One of these was the Article 41bis, a rule prescribing harsh treatment in jail for (among others) those charged with mafia crimes.

After the third 1993 attack, in Milan, another bomb failed to go off, in Rome next to the Olimpico Stadium. Had it gone off, it would have killed around 100 Carabinieri who were standing outside the stadium. The official explanation was that the bomb’s mechanism, luckily, had failed. The unofficial one was that the attack had been called off at the last minute. The ‘pact’ between Cosa Nostra and the State had been reached.

Gaspare Spatuzza has chosen to speak to the judges about those years. He has become a ‘pentito’, a state witness. Under interrogatory, he has revealed that in 1993 he was told by the Graviano brothers (the two mafia bosses whose leading role he took over after they were arrested) of the possibilities of a ‘pact’ with the State. The Gravianos first told Spatuzza to organise the attack at the Olimpico stadium. On a second meeting, in 2004, they told him that the pact with the State had been reached. “Graviano was very happy -Spatuzza told the prosecutors. He said we’ve got the full deal, and that these were serious people, not like those loser socialists (possible reference to the previous Italian PM Bettino Craxi).” Spatuzza says he was told that those “serious people” were “the one of Canale 5” (one of Berlusconi’s tv channels) and “a countryman of ours”, namely Marcello Dell’Utri. He has clearly made the names of Berlusconi and Dell’Utri as those with whom Cosa Nostra was making a deal 16 years ago.

In 2001, Berlusconi won the elections for the second time, thus becoming (for the second time) Prime Minister. In spite of his alliance with the Northern League, he received full support from Sicily’s voters. Full means full: 61 candidates were elected in 61 constituencies. 100% success. Quite remarkable.

A year later, during a football match at Palermo stadium, the following banner was exposed by a somewhat strangely quite group of football supporter:

“United against Article 41 Bis. Berlusconi forgets Sicily.”

The Article 41 bis is still in place. Mafia bosses have started talking to the judges (their natural enemy), about (and against) Berlusconi after 17 years. Are they giving up the hope for a change?

Spatuzza is due to speak tomorrow at Dell’Utri’s trial. Stay tuned.