The state of votes
Roots run deep
Francesca Romana Bastianello
Re-thinking the deal
Francesca Romana Bastianello | 2015. March 10. 10:00
The trattativa Stato-Mafia often makes the headlines. The trial investigating it came to a historic moment with former President Napolitano’s testimony last October and the arrest of the leader of the group operating in Rome. However, organized crime's roots run deep and could develop throughout the years to infiltrate different aspect of Italian public life.
The “relationship” between the Italian State and Mafia has deep and long roots, almost as long the trial investigating it. The latter involved several politicians, government ministers and organized crime leaders, who were accused of holding secret talks during a period of intense violence at the beginning of the 1990s. Even the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano testified at a new phase of the anti-mafia trial last October.
The so-called trattativa Stato-Mafia refers to a supposed agreement between important political figures and Cosa Nostra (Sicilian Mafia) representatives to end the terroristic attacks that characterized the 1992-1993 years.
The government lead by the Prime Minister G. Amato launched a serious anti-terrorism campaign and many Mafiosi were arrested. However, this did not stop the terrorist attacks and many others died in the following years, politicians as well as civilians.
Nevertheless, not all members of the Sicilian Mafia supported the terrorist tactics. Indeed, some mafia leaders decided to quit the terrorist-separatist project to ally with the just born political movement Forza Italia, lead by Silvio Berlusconi. Allegedly, Berlusconi granted them judiciary benefits in exchange for electoral support, but there is no evidence of this agreement.
Organized crime has declined in subsequent years. Italian law enforcement conducted several high-profile asset seizures, though the mafia remains a potent force. Its presence influences everyday activities and politics, with a mafia-referred news frequently on the news.
Another debate evolved around the Protocollo Farfalla (Butterfly Protocol). The vice-president of the Anti-Mafia commission Claudio Fava recently underlined its importance in the Stato-Mafia deal as its aim was to manage the information coming from mafia leaders kept in maximum security prisons, who communicated information directly to prison administration without notifying public prosecutors. He added that this deal was struck in 2003-2004 under the second Berlusconi government between the secret services and prison administration, involving high level figures. Current Prime Minister Renzi lifted state secret on this protocol, nevertheless the parties involved deny its existence.
The collaboration of political figures and mafia leaders was confirmed with the sentence of Marcello dell’Utri. Former senator of the Republic, dell’Utri was charged with participation in mafia association.
Another eleven parties have been involved in the trial. Nevertheless, public opinion perceives this number as low compared to the supposed number of people involved. The famous Italian comic Sabrina Guzzanti (who presented at the 71st Venice Film Festival her movie #La Trattativa on the stato-mafia deal) launched a controversy expressing solidarity with the mafia leaders Riina and Bagarella, after the Court of Assizes refused the two bosses attendance in video conference to President Napolitano’s deposition. Her justification was that those who betrayed the institutions are more disgusting than Mafiosi are. This tweet raised an intense debate on the efficiency of justice in checking the criminal presence inside governmental institutions and on the penalties for those found guilty of collusion with the mafia.
Ajda Pretnar | 2015. March 15. 00:00
The idea here is not to confirm or dispute the existence of such a deal, but to re-think the nature of the deal in terms of politics.
The mafia phenomenon is certainly a complex and historical one. What started as an answer to weak political control over the Italian South, quickly became an intricate conglomerate of criminal and economic activities, focused around the notion of the (extended) family and family-like ties. Mafia has evolved into a parastatal formation with many leverages of power, which complicates things for the actual Italian government.
What changed in the past years is that 'Ndrangheta and other strong mafia organisations became channels of investment and entrepreneurial strongholds. There is a slight similarity to post-Soviet oligarchs in terms of parastatal powers that exercise control through their financial means, yet mafia is far more famous for employing extortion, corruption and physical violence as part of their control tactics. Indeed, the studies conducted in the last three decades (from the 1980s onwards) underline the passage of mafia as cultural phenomenon, i.e. as a subculture, behaviour pattern, or mentality, to a well-developed organisation, i.e. ‘Ndrangheta, Cosa Nostra or one of the other organizations.
It is in this context that we have to understand the infiltration of Mafiosi into administration and public service, thus making it impossible to separate the state apparatus from the workings of the mafia.
Now with the mafia so tightly bound with the workings of the state, what can politicians do to manage statal affairs and protect the people that elected them? Shouldn’t the interests of the people come before political integrity? Concluding a deal with para-statal formation for the benefit of the population is not necessarily entirely negative. Once the organisation holds enough (political, economic, social, criminal…) power, working against it might mean working against your own people. The stato-mafia deal could actually be seen as a good political move (or the only possible option).
In Italy, politicians seems to have adopted a kind of legitimazion of illegality, as the latter is perceived as a resource functional to the institutional model and to the country development. The endless mafia trial and the few real opposition to mafia presence made the citizens perceive it as natural and inevitable. Moreover, the civil anti-mafia movement appears without a clear project. Mainly informal and organised in association, it has an ambivalent approach: on the one side it asks for reforms, through the removal of those politicians accused of collusion with the organized crime, while on the other, it is proposing alternative practices and theorisations. In both cases their claims remain, unfortunately, mainly hypothetical.
On the other hand, mafia is in step with the time and not some cultural remnant of the past. It has political ambition. Infiltration of their members into public administration and dealing with the government officials prove it. Thus politicians are forced to walk the thin line between the demands of the mafia and the support for the rule of law. Erosion of the rule of law is surely detrimental to the functioning and authority of the state. But violence against civilians and anti-mafia activists doesn’t help to solve the problem either.
Thus the situation calls for the merging of the two levels – civilian and governmental. By creating a bottom-up nationwide anti-mafia movement, politicians could exploit the wave of insurgency to push favourable anti-mafia decisions and (re-)establish authority. Only joint efforts can bring results in fighting against organised crime with such effective leverages of power.
Francesca Romana Bastianello
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