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Vieni Via Con Me, Lega Nord and the mafia

Lega Nord

Those not in the Living Museum might not have heard of a new Italian television programme called ‘Vieni Via Con Me’, – which is ‘Come Away With Me’ in English.  However just about everyone in the whole of Italy has heard of this new show now.  On Monday this week, some 10 million Italians tuned in to see this new programme which is an attempt to portray the high and low points of life and society in contemporary Italy.

The first episode in the Vieni Via Con Me run was reportedly watched by some 9 million Italians.  It’s safe to say that the programme is showing every sign of becoming popular, and also indicates that Italians do like good television when they can get it, which, to be honest, is rare.  I’m not certain whether the format of Vieni Via Con Me will stand the test of time, as people may tire of it, but for the moment, it is refreshingly different.

You’d think that such an innocent sounding television show would not kick up any stink, but it has, twice so far, and there have only been two editions.  Actually, the powers that be in Italy had a serious go at nipping the programme in the bud.  They failed, fortunately.

roberto saviano
Roberto Saviano

One of the programme’s co-hosts is Roberto Saviano – an anti-mafia crusader who lives in a form of isolation, even if he is surrounded by a small army of police body guards.  Yes, after writing the book Gomorrah which exposed the dodgy camorra mafia of Naples, Saviano has been assigned a permanent escort; not the type of escort someone else in Italy seems to like frequenting.  Saviano comes out of hiding to do Vieni Via Con Me. So far, he has spoken about Italy’s mafias in what seems to be an attempt at raising public awareness of the extent of mafia infiltration into Italian society.

Nothing bad in that, you might think, only for some, people up to an including Italian senators who probably have a cozy relationship with Italy’s organised crime gangs, Saviano is a scoundrel who needs to be silenced.  These people would be happy if the silencing were ‘permanent’.  By appearing on Vieni Via Con Me Saviano is risking his life – he’s a brave man.

Saviano is not the First

People have tried to silence others who have tried to expose the mafia via Italian television and one such person who was Italian TV talk show host and journalist Maurizio Costanzo who, so the story goes, was also an anti-mafia crusader, only one day he was told very firmly to shut up or else, and now he remains virtually silent on the mafia issue.

Others openly critical of the mafia have simply been executed.

Saviano has been told to shut up, and mafia killers are after him, but, selflessly, he continues what at times appears to be a one-man battle against evil in Italy.

Certain people in Italy would like Italy’s population to think Saviano is no more than a misguided voice, but in actual fact, there are more than a few Italians who would be happy to see the mafia extinguished.  One such person is the Lega Nord government minister of Italy’s interior, Roberto Maroni.  Maroni has been doing an excellent job of rounding up Italy’s mobsters.  Only yesterday, another big name in the mafia underworld fell into the open arms of the law.  More arrests are on the way, and mafia cash and assets are being used to fund anti-mafia activities.  Saviano has acknowledged Maroni’s success, but believes that while Maroni is making good progress, he’s only been chipping away at what is a proverbial iceberg so far, in that what’s visible mafia-wise is nothing compared to what lurks below the waterline.

This week, during one of his anti-mafia monologues on Vieni Via Con Me, Saviano happened to quote the words of one of the founders of Maroni’s Lega Nord – the Northen League – political party.  This late gentleman, one Gianfranco Miglio, once stated that he was for keeping the mafia, but that Italy’s criminal organisations should be, to all intents and purposes, legalised and managed by those in the south of Italy.  One gets the impression that Saviano was shocked to hear a senior political figure make such a comment.  What galled Saviano all the more was that although the Northern League publicly claims to be against mafia infiltration, there are indications that this is not entirely accurate.

Saviano went on to state that mafia infiltration in the Northern League’s northern Italy stronghold has reached worrying levels.

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UPDATE: According to Minister Roberto Maroni, although the mafia has penetrated administrations in north Italy, it has not infiltrated Northern League run administrations. End of update.

Saviano Angers Maroni

The statement made by Saviano enraged Italy’s anti-mafia minister Maroni who initially claimed that Saviano was totally incorrect, and demanded to be allowed the right of reply on the same programme.  However Saviano, like a proper journalist, had the facts to substantiate his words.  These facts came from Italy’s official anti-mafia organisation the DIA, nonetheless; facts which Maroni should have been fully aware of.  Maroni, you see, oversees the activity of the DIA.  Today, somewhat reluctantly during a press conference, Maroni conceded that Saviano’s facts, figures and quote were 100% accurate.

The Mafia is Very Active in Italy’s North

The truth is that the ‘ndrangheta mafia which infests Italy’s toe has been making money on major construction projects in northern Italy for quite a while, and some of those turning a blind eye have been Northern League members.  So much for the Northern League people being more honest than politicians from Italy’s south.  Or that’s what seems to be the case at first sight.  What is more probable is that cooperation with the mafia in northern Italy has arisen as a result of coercion.  When the mafia hears of some big construction project, especially if it is some kind of public works, such as a motorway, large bridge or preparation for an international event like Milan’s 2015 Expo, it sets its wheels in motion.  People are contacted and asked to cooperate.  Generous ‘compensation’ payments ensure that mafia ‘partners’ stay silent.

Those who refuse to lend a helping hand to the mafia could end up facing death threats or being dissolved in acid.  Sooner or later, as the mafia knows full well, someone who dislikes the idea of being placed in an acid bath will come along and agree to cooperate.  Such is the power of Italy’s ruthless mob.

Construction projects provide excellent money laundering opportunities for organised crime in Italy, hence the mob’s interest.  It is suspected that Silvio Berlusconi may have been forced into cooperating with the mafia in connection with is own construction projects.  Of course, unscrupulous businessmen can approach the mafia directly and offer their help – knowing full well that the financial rewards will be well worth their efforts.  Some believe Silvio Berlusconi falls into the ‘unscrupulous businessmen’ category.

In talking about how much power Italy’s mafia exerts, Saviano has done nothing more than draw public attention to something which has being going on for years; for many Italians what Saviano says is nothing new.  Italians tend to feel, or at least this is my own personal impression, that the mafia is about as Italian as pasta, but not as wholesome.

Maroni Calms Down

It seems that after jumping on his high horse, Italy’s mafia battling Minister Maroni has placed his feet back on firm ground, and has started to acknowledge that Saviano has not been feeding Italy’s population mere half-truths.  Furthermore, Maroni is now indicating he wants to work more closely with Saviano.

Other Attacks on Saviano

Others though are continuing to attack Roberto Saviano.  For example, the Il Giornale newspaper, which is in the hands of the Berlusconi family, published a somewhat scathing attack on Saviano because he said that the north of Italy is just as mafi-infested as Italy’s south.  Saviano is described as being ‘rich and untouchable’ in an article which calls for the paper’s readers to sign a petition against Italy’s anti-mafia crusader. This petition can be ‘signed’ by sending an email, a text message or a fax – which means that just about any Mario, Marco and Mafioso can ‘sign’.  Not exactly the most transparent way of collecting signatures, and as for ascertaining their veracity, well…

Such an initiative seems to confirm what I stated at the beginning of this post – that some people in Italy are more than happy for others to be dissolved in acid, as long as their bank accounts swell.  Nice people.

In attacking Saviano, Il Giornale is attacking honesty and integrity, and is insinuating that Italians are dishonest and without scruples.  Is this a good position for a national newspaper to take?  Is this a good impression of Italians to give?  Not really, even if it will help Il Giornale sell papers.

It’s to be hoped that mafia battling Minister Maroni will spring to Saviano’s defence without hesitating for a nanosecond.

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