The Capaci killing. Italy remembers Giovanni Falcone

Twenty five years ago on this day, the little glimmers of hope that had feebly penetrated the dark veil in which Italy had been eloped since after the Second World War were gone. It was a matter of seconds: they exploded in thousand pieces of blood and metal along the highway A29 Palermo-Punta Raisi near the junction toward Capaci. Five people died that day: Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo and three of his bodyguards Vito Schifano, Rocco Dicillo and Antonino Montinaro. The episode is known as the Capaci killing.

On 23rd May 1992 Giovanni Falcone was on board his car, home-bound. Two other Fiat Cromas were escorting him: one driving in front, one following. 1000 kilograms of TNT remotely detonated from the hills around Capaci killed the prosecutor and, with him, that part of Italy that still believed in justice.

Giovanni Falcone in fact was, at the time, leading the investigation into the fabrics of the most powerful Sicilian-based criminal organization, Cosa Nostra. He was investigating the murders of policemen, politicians, judges who ventured a little too far.

He was unveiling connections – just like others had done before him – that needed to remain secret: there was a sort of alignment, an axis between diverse powers with overlapping interests.

The connections primarily involved the leading Christian Democracy Party (DC), Cosa Nostra, the P2 (Propaganda Due) masonic lodge and the far-right extremists. The DC had been in power since after World War II and its key figures were colluded with the mafia. The P2 operated as a second layer of governance: it featured journalists, industrialists (Silvio Berlusconi was one of them), the heads of the secret intelligence, prominent members of Parliament and many others.  According to a thesis supported by Giovanni Falcone himself, the far-right extremism was deployed in several occasions by Cosa Nostra – possibly with the tacit approval of the secret services and part of the political elite – to carry out attacks that would open wounds into the heart of the country (such as the Bologna massacre that killed 85 in 1980). The attacks were probably aimed at raising supsicions around the far-left movement, the closest to Moscow: preventing the spread of the Communist movement was in fact vital for the axis in order to safeguard its interests.

Let’s go back a few years. 2nd August 1978. Cold War is still raging on in the background. Aldo Moro, member of the left-wing component within the DC, was killed. The reason behind his murder is a convergence of motives that invested both local and international balances. In a very unstable political climate, he was pursuing – together with the leader of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), Enrico Berlinguer – a compromise that could unite the two parties and guarantee the governability of a country with a complex political landscape. The historical compromise – as it has been named – never happened as Moro’s murder put an end to the negotiations. URSS, USA, far-right extremists and the DC’s right-wing faction were all wary and fundamentally averse – for different reasons – to such an alliance. And so the alliance never came to be.

Just like at the national level, the then President of Sicily, Piersanti Mattarella, and the Provincial Secretary of the DC in Palermo, Michele Reina, were attempting to link the majority party to the PCI at the regional level. The move did not encounter positive reactions. Reina and Mattarella were killed and so were the prosecutors and policemen who investigated into their deaths. Who did it? It seems likely that Cosa Nostra acted to try to protect its interests in and around Sicily, considering the fact that President Mattarella was taking measures to hinder mafia’s businesses. But were there others involved?

A systematical cleansing was carried out between 1979 and 1980, effectively obstructing the course of justice. That was the beginning of the violent strategy put in place by Cosa Nostra, amidst intestine leadership quarrels, to remove any hurdle that might have compromised their drug trade (Pizza Connection) between the mafia families of Palermo (Inzerillo, Bontade, Spatola) and their “American cousins”, the Gambinos, and numerous other businesses (from waste disposal to public contracts, to road and sewage maintenance).

Two years after the murder of Mattarella, Cosa Nostra kills Pio La Torre. It’s the 30th April 1982. Originally from Sicily and a member of the PCI, La Torre was the co-author of a law – law 646/1982 – recognising and punishing the crime of mafia association. The law was approved by the Parliament on 13 September 1982, a few months after La Torre’s death.

Thanks to his work, justice could briefly triumph.

It all started with a maxi-trial on 10th February 1986: the many traitors who spoke up and ratted out mafiosi in exchange of a reduction of their sentence, together with the final ruling that came six years later, left Cosa Nostra exposed and wounded.

The Sicilian mob appeared to have been stabbed in the back by those loyal politicians who were supposed to protect its interests and its men.

The leadership was furious and it soon retaliated, murdering the former mayor of Palermo, Salvo Lima, as a warning to the leader of the DC, Giulio Andreotti, for failing to oppose the trial; they opened negotiations with the State primarily trying to reverse the unprecedented sentence that had condamned over 400 people somehow connected to Cosa Nostra and to ultimately overhaul law 646/1982 (Rognoni-La Torre).

And so in the ’90s the killing strategy changed. The attacks were not just delegated to the forces of the extreme right but they were personally orchestrated – allegedly with the complicity of a blurry “dark side” of the Italian government – by the Corleonesi – namely Salvatore (Toto’) Riina e Bernardo Provenzano – who won the war for power within Cosa Nostra against the then-leading Palermitan families (Inzerillo, Bontade, Spatola).

This brings us back to 1992. That 23rd May.

25 years ago on this day, Giovanni Falcone was murdered because of the whims of a powerful mafia and the impotent complacency of a certain corrupted leadership.

Truth is he had died years earlier, when he embarked in a fight against a metastatic cancer that systematically drains hope, justice and integrity from all the vital cells of a society; he had died because he had been left alone, just like other prosecutors before him; he had died because he persevered notwithstanding the risks.

(Pubblicato originariamente il 22 maggio 2017)

Silvia Bortoletto

Silvia Bortoletto – Cosa Vostra

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