The Italianist

Things That Happen in Italy

Posts Tagged ‘mafia

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.


Written by TheItalianist

16/11/2011 at 02:20

Scilipoti’s choice

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This post is dedicated to a man who, some have suggested, should be awarded the title of “Man of 2010”. The man is Domenico Scilipoti. He is one of the three MPs who played a central role in the vote of confidence to Berlusconi’s Government, which took place on the 14th December 2010 and that, amidst the fears of many Italians, could have determined the end of Berlusconi’s leadership of the country. As we all know, Silvio eventually survived –once again- the threat that the evil Left had posed to him -yet he did so by a margin of just three votes in his favour. He still rules the country, though in his usual grumpy mood.

However, one fo the three savers of Italy’s Government has a particularly moving story, which the world should now. Enters Domenico Scilipoti:

A previous member of Italy of Values, he has recently left that group to form the Movement of National Responsibility. Useful information about this important figure in Italian politics are found on his own website.This is a very colourful conglomerate of self-celebratory remarks on Scilipoti’s amazing career as politician and, more importantly, as doctor. Scilipoti praises himself to be an expert in medicine, with several degrees gained from the well-know “A.B.P.S. Institute of Salvador De Baia, Brasil”, and from the Federal University of Parana’. A born-and -bred Sicilian, one can only wonder at his (already corageous) choice to go and study medicine in South America.

The website also works as the board where he can defend himself from vile accusations from his opponents. For example, he has been accused by some vile person that the manifesto of the MNR is, in many parts, the xact copy of the Fascist manifesto, written in 1925 by the Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile. On his website, Scilipoti proudly rejects the accusations, saying he is flattered by the fact that intellectuals in 1925 came to the same conclusions he did today.

Scilipoti is, in his own word, a gynaecologist and an acupuncturist: acupuncture, in particular, played a central role in some of his most meaningful political choices, as we will see shortly. The most courageous choice, and the one with the strongest impact on Italy’s destiny was the aforementioned decision to vote in support of Berlusconi’s Government on last December. The ‘courage’ is due to the fact that Scilipoti was not an ally of Silvio: on the contrary, he was a member of Italy of Values, a Party that centres its manifesto on fighting illegality in Italy and, above all, on blocking Berlusconi’s attempts to change the Constitution and the legal system. Given that illegality was one of the reasons why Berlusconi’s Government was under trial, it is surprising that Scilipoti voted in favour of Peoples’ Freedom, Berlusconi’s group. Together with Bruno Cesario and Massimo Caleario, two other members of the Left who, like him, had an epiphany on the eve of the confidence vote, Scilipoti decided to give his support to Berlusconi. He also suddenly realised that Italy of Values, the Party he had been a member of for years, was made up of “a bunch of imbeciles”, “enemies of democracy”, “mediocre individuals”. He has been appearing on many TV and Radio shows, to explain the motivation for his change of political position – famously using the third person (“Scilipoti does”, “Scilipoti will”, “the choice of Scilipoti”, etc.) “Scilipoti’s choice ” to leave Italy of Values, as he explains, was based on conscience: in its fight against illegality and impunity, against Mafia in the Italian Parliament, against corruption, the Party was failing in a key aspect of the political life of a democratic community – namely, it was not committed to holistic medicine and to acupuncture. Hence, Scilipoti’s choice.

Here is a picture of the Founding Fathers of the new MNR:

(Scilipoti isn’t standing on his knees.)

This still does not explain why Scilipoti chose to vote in  favour of Berlusconi. Here, Scilipoti’s choice is not clear yet. Looking at Scilipoti’s recent past might help us find some hints.

In 2009, he was sentenced to a Euro 200,000 fine for failing to pay an architect he had employed for a job never realised. After various attempts to deny any responsibility, he had finally declared he would not pay the fine – but the sentence was still pending on him, making his hand shake during acupuncture sessions. Some mediocre people say that the money suddenly arrived from ‘somewhere’, and the fine was paid – and that Scilipoti voted for who did that.

Something else can be grasped by looking at Scilipoti’s past. In the 80s and 90s he had been the vice-major of Terme Vigilatore, a town in Sicily. The town council was dissolved in 2005 due to proven links with Mafia. At the end of the inquiry, the magistrates wrote in their report that one of these links was Scilipoti himself – that is, a mafioso. This is, of course, impossible. If it were true, it would also be true that there is Mafia in the Parliament, and that it strikes deals with the Prime Minister. Which is, once again, absurd: I mention it just for chit-chat.

After his epiphany, Scilipoti is now on a mission to support the Italian Government. When the Parliament was voting for Berlusconi’s reform of the legal system –briefly explained here – Scilipoti was seen running to his desk, waiving his arm as to say to someone ‘somewhere’ “I am here, I am voting!”:

His ex-Party mates from Italy of Values are still a bit upset with him. Corriere della Sera reports that, every time the name “Scilipoti” is mentioned during Parliament discussion, someone from the ranks of Italy of Values yells “Munnizza!”, which in Sicilian dialect means “Rubbish!” Yet, Scilipoti stands the challenge without dwindling: “[These people] are ignorant – he commented, when asked about the yelling against him. – They ignore that, today, rubbish is not a waste, it’s a resource”.

That’s a fact.

Amidst the Ruins

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Today, a building in the ancient area of the Pompeii Village, in Southern Italy collapsed. Pompeii has escaped the eruptions of the Vesuvium, it has managed to survive bombs during WWII (accidentally dropped by the Americans). However, it could not resist after years and years of water infiltration into its buildings, due to general carelessness and lack of proper maintenance works. More on this can be found here and here.

I find it symbolic that the building in question used to be the House of the Gladiators. That was the place where gladiators would train and prepare to fight. What happens when such place ‘collapses’? Is that a message that there might be no reason, or no hope, to fight any more?

Luckily, the Italian Minister of Culture, Sandro Bondi, who is in charge of the care of Italy’s heritage, has immediately stood up to comment: “If it was my fault, I would resign!” This is Bondi, in an image that captures his relentless effort to assist the Prime Minister in Parliament:

In addition to his achievements as Minister of Culture, Bondi is well-known for reprimanding Quentin Tarantino, a snobbish movie director, when he had commented on the quality of Italian cinema in a not very friendly way.

Unofficial sources have suggested that the Government is already planning an emergency strategy to deal with this very serious incident that, according to the same sources, is believed to be part of a large plan of the Mafia. As this post is going into (world)press, a meeting is taking place at the Prime Minister’s residence in Palazzo Grazioli, in Rome, where the leader is working hard, with some colleagues, to solve the country’s problems. There are consistent rumours that Berlusconi is about to appoint one of his best men to direct a rescue plan, which allegedly is going to be called “Operation Bunga-Bunga”.

Written by TheItalianist

07/11/2010 at 22:26

End of a Love

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More drama on the Italian scene. This time, the drama takes place at an open debate of the PDL, The People’s Freedom, Italy’s ruling coalition led by Berlusconi. For us Italians, so used to kisses, tears, love, hugs, and the various performances of the defenders of “Love that wins over hatred and envy”, today was a bit of a shock.

Here’s what happened. There were these elections in Italy, a couple of weeks ago. Against the odds, and in spite of a quite messy build-up in the final weeks, the Right Wing, Berlusconi-led coalition, brought home a clear success over the not-so-charismatic Left-Wing opposition (see previous post).  The clearest outcome of the elections were that a) few people than ever went to vote and b) more people voted for the Northern League.

The Northern League is one of the most influential parties in Italy, with strong leaders and clear plans about reforming Italy. It is known for its commitment to protecting Italy’s culture and values, and for a perfectly rational attachments to tribal ceremonies like baptizing each other with the water of their sacred river Po. They use to refer to themselves as “colonies of Padania”, and are somewhat wary of big associations, like multi-region nations, not to mention the EU.

It turned out that the Northern League was the real winner of the Regional Elections: Berlusconi got less votes for himself, but could take advantage of the Northern League’s votes, given the latter belongs to the coalition he leads. As some have pointed out, this has had some serious effects on the Government’s next moves.

Enter Gianfranco Fini. This is Fini:

In spite of 16 (!) years of life together, he’s often showed a dissatisfaction with having to deal with Berlusconi. How could it be so? – one may wonder.

This unhappiness has increased after the regional election and the already mentioned Northern success. Fini, who leads the second more important Right-Wing group in the Government coalition, AN (National Alliance), got somewhat tired of the PDL’s supine obedience to the policies the Northern League is now pushing. Again, it is hard to accept this may be possible..

After weeks of mild reciprocal challenges, the two came to a showdown today. Fini got to talk at the PDL convention, and he raised some criticisms directly at Berlusconi. Now, it is important to specify some things:

a) no one criticises Berlusconi

b) even more importantly, no one ever criticises Berlusconi in public

c) no one ever criticises Berlusconi in front of TV cameras

Fini breached these three fundamental principles of Italian democracy, and in fact he has already been labelled a communist (according to the Italian rule that says “against Berlusconi” = against democracy = communist). He went on the stage and raised questions to the PM: mainly, he questioned the direction the PDL is taking. He highlighted contradiction between claiming to intend to defend the authority of the law and enacting some policies. He prided himself for criticising the PM openly in spite of being ridiculed by ‘certain press’ owned by PM’s relatives. He congratulates the PM as the real winner of the regional elections, yet he also asked “to be honest: now that the elections have gone, let’s say clearly that none of us believe there was a plot from the judges to deprive us of the victory, but that we just messed it up ourselves..”.

Too much, even for an ex-fascist. I’m surprised he’s still alive. Berlusconi got on the stage after him, and made it clear to him that if he wanted to make criticisms of the Government’s action, he should abandon his role of President of the Lower House of the Parliament, because he is meant to be super partes. Curiously, Berlusconi never gave similar orders to the President of the Senate, Renato Schifani.

“Our party has been exposed to public humiliation by its own members! Gianfranco, let’s talk to each other clearly! You said you are ashamed of having formed the PDL! This is the truth!!” Then he continued: “You are supposed to be super-partes, you cannot make judgments on the Government action! You cannot make these judgments if you are President of the Lower House.” Fini, from the audience, stood up and, waving his finger at Berlusconi, asked “Or what? Are you going to kick me out?”

The country is under shock. A breach in the PDL seems hard to avoid. Right-wing voters express their rage against Fini, “the traitor”, the mercenary sold to the communists. Left-wing voters struggle to acknowledge sympathy for an ex-fascist who has also shared Berlusconi’s bed for the last 16 years. Berlusconi is surely preparing one of his stylish coupe de theatre. The Northern League, in the meantime, appears unshaken by these issues.

Written by TheItalianist

22/04/2010 at 23:03

Two Weeks of Italian News

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I have been unable to write on the blog in the last two weeks, and Italy hasn’t stood waiting for me.. So I’m going to post a brief overview of what’s going on in the cradle of the Roman Empire, hoping to go more into details over the next days.

Legitimate Impediment

In its strenuous fight against communist judges seeking to prevent the PM from saving the country from hell, the Italian Government has proposed a new bill exempting politicians from appearing at the trial if a ‘legitimate impediment’ occurs. On a loose reading of this proposal, a Minister (especially a Prime Minister) can say no to an order to appear at a trial (especially a trial where he is the accused one) if he’s busy.

Unnatural Rights

The Pope has urged Catholics churches in England and Wales to oppose the Equality Bill. The idea of equal rights, said the Pope, is against the natural law. Some failed to see the Catholic spirit behind Ratzi’s pledge.

Silent voting

Italy is the country of the freedom of information and of expression, as it is well known. The Government is committed to preserving citizens’ right to be informed and to make free choices about which Party to support. It is in this spirit that, in view of the regional elections in late March 2010, the Government has banned all political talks on TV in the month before the elections. This is meant to guarantee that voters’ minds not be polluted with subversive messages. The bill applies only to State-owned TV channels, RAI, and not to private ones, owned by the PM.

How to lead a proper relief operation

In the aftermath of the catastrophic Haiti earthquake, the head of Italian Civic Protection Department, Guido Bertolaso, (a man who worked closely with the PM to help the population of l’Aquila, in central Italy, after the earthquake a year ago), criticised the US Government for the way it was handling the relief operation. Bertolaso, whom I have discovered today to have been the head of the Civic Protection Dept under the last 14 legislatures, is now on the news again:  phone tapping have been published concerning the way he runs the business of civic protection

In the Name of the Father

The son of  Vito Ciancimino, the first politician to be found guilty of Mafia membership, during a trial has produced a letter his father allegedly sent to Silvio Berlusconi, outlining conditions for a pact between the Mafia and the State. The papello, as the letter is called, contained a series of requests the Mafia made to the State to stop the campaign of terrorist attacks in 1992-3. This casts some shadows on the origins of Berlusconi’s political career. More on the papello can be found here.

For the Francophones

France is still coping with the defeat in the Wold Cup final, four years ago. So, they are still trying to show that they are better than Italy, and that they should have won instead…

Written by TheItalianist

17/02/2010 at 18:10

Yes Berlusconi Day

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Yesterday it was the No Berlusconi Day. An event organised through Facebook by a group of italians, it quickly gained popularity so that in many cities around the world, citizens (mostly italians) gathered to protest against Silvio Berlusconi and officially ask for his resignation as Prime Minister. Sydney, New York, Toronto, London, Edinburgh (a few, but strong!), Paris, etc., with the biggest event hold in Rome. Some images of the event in various cities can be found at this link .

The key to the protest (which was completely peaceful) was the colour purple. Purple was supposed to be the only colour allowed – it’s neutral, it does not refer to any political entity, it therefore suits very well a protest which is supposed to be completely Party-less. Not a protest against the Government (not this time..), but against one person. A plea for making him accountable for his actions.

Unfortunately things turned out differently, and in Italy there were loads of political flags. Mainly the red ones of the communist party, but also those of IDV (Italia Dei Valori), a party founded by Antonio Di Pietro, an ex-magistrate. A lot of political members from the Left (Note: Left is a very vague word in Italy, so don’t take it to mean anything particularly, especially not as in “contrary to the Right”..) decided, at the last minute, to take part in the event. The media immediately used that as a sign that the whole event had been orchestrated by the Left (again, let’s say the a-Right) to make the Government fall. I have just watched the news on Internet, and got the impression of an own-goal . Of course, what happens on the italian media should never be considered even close to the truth. But I really don’t understand why Italians cannot abandon the football-like approach to politics, and just go in the street to ask for the resignation of a person who is not doing the interest of the country.. It is a bit disappointing because, in my view, the No B-day lost a lot of its meaning once the colour red started popping out..

At the same time,  while people were marching in the streets and mafia bosses were saying in the courtroom that Berlusconi used to be their best mate, the Italian police arrested, just today!, two apparently very important mafia bosses. With an incredible timing, this event  took over (and rightly so) a big chunk of today’s news. It has also offered Berlusconi the stage to defend the work the Government is doing against the mafia, and to reject “all the rubbish said by completely unreliable individuals against the PM”..

I am afraid the final score of the No Berlusconi Day is 2-0 for him.

Written by TheItalianist

06/12/2009 at 04:49


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At the trial against Marcello Dell’Utri, the Mafia witness Gaspare Spatuzza has confirmed in front the judges what he had previously told the prosecutors:

“Graziano told me that we had got everything thanks to the reliability of the persons that carried out the deal. Two names were mentioned to me: that of Berlusconi and that of Dell’Utri. (…) Because of the reliability of these persons, the country had been basically put in our hands”.

Info in english can be found here, here and here.

Written by TheItalianist

04/12/2009 at 23:36