If you did not know, Forza Italia was the Italian political party which proceeded what is now Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party. Recently in Italy, two convicted criminals have stated during court hearings that the Forza Italia party was the product of an agreement between Berlusconi and the mafia.
Initial claims, by mafia turncoat Gaspare Spatuzza, that Forza Italia was closely liked to the mafia were dismissed on the grounds of the reliability of the person who made such accusations. After all, would you believe a convicted criminal? When the mafia boss for whom Spatuzza had supposedly worked would not corroborate Spatuzza’s words, the validity of his claims became distinctly questionable.
It was at this point that Berlusconi probably breathed a sigh of relief. This relief, however, has proven to be rather short lived, for now we have another, admittedly convicted, criminal, Massimo Ciancimino, who also happens to the son of the late Vito Ciancimino, a fomer mayor of Palermo in Sicily. This mayor had also faced accusations of collusion with the mafia.
In his testimony in court, the mayor’s son spoke of a letter from a mafia boss which mentioned Silvio Berlusconi and his associate, Italian Senator, Del’Utri.
The fruit of this allegedly unholy alliance was the Forza Italia party which was led by Silvio Berlusconi. Ciancimino claims that the letter is still intact.
These accusations seem to have rattled Berlusconi enough for him to have implemented what could be interpreted as being a diversionary tactic, in that the case of Eluana Englaro has been resurrected. And this was after the very public poo-pooing of such detestable accusations by Italy’s very own justice minister (also from Sicily), Angelo Alfano. Alfano claimed that people were plotting to bring down the government. Commies, probably.
Some people in Italy; I have no idea how many, but the number is not insignificant; believe Silvio Berlusconi has links to the mafia, although such links have never been proven.
The question is: Why might Italians think either that their prime minister is in league with the mafia, or that he could possibly be a mafia puppet?
Here are some reasons.
Berlusconi’s Fabulous Fortune
Nobody understands just how Silvio Berlusconi amassed such a large fortune, nor is it clear from where, or from whom, the funds for his Milan developments and media empire actually came.
Spatuzza, the mafia turncoat in the first set of trials in which Berlusconi’s links with the mafia were suggested, intimated that funding for Berlusconi’s foray into the business world came from mafia bigwigs. There is no actual evidence though. However Italy being Italy, many Italians suspect that there are links.
Sicilians Voted for Forza Italia in 2001
Fuelling suspicions of links between Berlusconi and the mafia is the fact that in the 2001 elections, Berlusconi’s party won more seats via Sicily than via any other Italian region aside from Lombardy up in northern Italy. Now why would impoverished under-developed Sicilians go and vote for a right wing party? Odd, is it not? Not if you factor in the mafia persuasion element. In which case, to certain Italians the victory of Berlusconi’s party in Sicily came as no great surprise.
Although I have not checked, you may well find that support for Berlusconi from Sicily was notable in all elections in Italy which occurred in the period between the formation of Forza Italia in 1993 and Berlusconi’s election win 2001.
Sicilians Voted for Forza Italia’s successor, the People of Freedom Party in 2006, and in 2008
If you look at the 2006 election results, even though Berlusconi lost, the amount of votes his Forza Italia party garnered in Sicily was impressive. It should be noted though, that Forza Italia performed well throughout Italy.
Same again in 2008 when Berlusconi won. Sicilians came out heavily in favour of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party.
See this Wikipedia entry on the 2001 elections in Italy: Aggregate results of uninominal part by region
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
For the 2006 election results, please click on the sections of this election graphic from La Repubblica: Elezione Politiche 2006
The 2008 election results can been viewed here, again, courtesy of La Repubblica: Elezione Politiche 2008
Pure coincidence? Or was someone who makes offers which cannot be refused providing a helping hand? Makes one wonder, and it makes Italians wonder too.
Not over yet.
The Del’Utri Connection
Marcello Del’Utri, an Italian senator, is a Berlusconi associate and, according to both the mafia stroke criminal turncoats, is the person who brokered the deal with the mafia which led to the setting up of the Forza Italia party. Again, pure hearsay, aside from the letter.
Thing is though, that Del’Utri has actually been convicted of the crime of extortion in a case which involved a mafia boss. However, as a result of appeals and coincidental changes to Italy’s laws, Del Utri’s conviction was ultimately quashed. Del’Utri has also been convicted of raising fraudulent invoices and of tax evasion -very minor convictions in Italy, which as such cannot be used to call Del’Utri’s character into question. But.
Accusations of extortion are not the only thing of which Del’Utri has been accused. In 2004 he was found guilty of associating with the mafia, and the words of the court in Palermo which sentenced Del’Utri to 9 years in the clink were rather damning. The court stated that evidence demonstrated Del’Utri had worked wilingly to reinforce and consolidate the activities of the mafia.
OK, so Del’Utri has not been conclusively convicted, however to some Italians, he seeps guilt, and quite obvious helping hands in the form of convenient laws emanating from deep within Italy’s government added to the impression that he is guilty. So Italians tend to feel Del’Utri was in collusion with the mafia, and as Del’Utri is a chum of Berlusconi, Italians believe it is likely that Silvio has certain ‘connections’ too.
One Can Begin to Understand Why Italians are Suspicious
With these cosy relationships and friendly new laws, you can perhaps start to understand why Italians are suspicious, and why the current accusations coming from men with strong mafia connections are rattling Berlusconi enough to throw up a smoke screen in the form of the sad case of Eluana Englaro.
There are other reasons why Italians do have some right to be a teensy weensy bit suspicious as to whether their current prime minister has links with Italy’s most infamous criminal organisation. For those reasons, however, you will have to wait until Part 2.
Although I may receive a bullet in the post as a result of writing this post, the facts contained herein are facts. No more, no less. The only exceptions to this rule are assumptions as to the opinions of Italians as to Berlusconi and the mafia. However I have heard many Italians intimate or say openly that Berlusconi is in league with Italy’s mafia, or mafias. These Italians though, cannot state conclusively that Berlusconi has mafia connections, and neither can I.
Suspicions and convictions are not the same things.
In Part 2 of this post, I’ll present a few other reasons why Italians may tend to believe the worst, and why the latest claims could be the straw which breaks a camel’s back.
Eluana Englaro – in English
Marcello Del’Utri – in Italian
Forza Italia – in English