Today is the commemoration of Giovanni Falcone’s assassination by the Corleonese Mafia. Falcone was an Italian prosecuting magistrate. From his office in the Palace of Justice in Palermo, he spent most of his professional life trying to overthrow the power of the Mafia in Sicily [Wikipedia].
He was killed with his wife Francesca Morvillo and police officers Rocco Dicillo, Antonio Montinaro and Vito Schifani in a blast that blew part of the highway near the town of Capaci (PA) on May 23, 1992. More than 20 years have passed and still Italians do not know all the truth about this massacre. This was the turning point for many Sicilians and my generation: the Mafia will never be stronger than us!
I was reading the news on my smartphone and I learnt that Libera Terra‘s 2,000 orange trees were burnt together with 6 hectares of wheat and 100 olive trees in Belpasso nearby Mount Etna on the night of June 9.
The Mafia’s confiscated lands in Sicily, Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Lazio have been taken over by cooperatives of students and have produced oil, wine, pasta, taralli, legumes, preserves and other organic goods. One of these cooperatives is Cooperativa Beppe Montana Libera Terra in Sicily.
I have been following the activities of this organization and the good it does with great admiration. These young people are the best generation Sicily and Italy could hope for. They are actively fighting the Mafia and risking themselves in first person. They were assigned the Belpasso property 12 years after it was confiscated from the Mafia. They worked hard to clean up everything after so many years and produced the first oil, fruit, jams last year. The Mafia waited to inflict the hardest economic blowout.
Police told them that there is 50% chance that it might have been spontaneous combustion… Who buys this? I hope Libera Terra is not going to be left on its own. It deserves full solidarity and an opportunity to start again.
To help Cooperativa Beppe Montana Libera Terra, visit http://www.coopbeppemontana.org/COMEAIUTARCI/tabid/74/language/it-IT/Default.aspx
Diego Pascal Panarello has a dream… Watch the video
We are in Sicily, on the railway which goes around Mt. Etna. The volcano’s lava stones evoke lunar atmospheres. Our trip into the unknown world of the jew’s harp begins. Ethnomusicologists, blacksmiths, constructors but above all musicians, tell of an ancient musical instrument: the jew’s harp. Often associated to an imagery of the mafia in Sicily, at the same time is used by siberians shamans to induce the state of trance. Not everyone knows that the instrument exists everywhere on earth and is concealed in the corners of each culture. In Yakutia, it is the national instrument and every years thousand of men, women and children play it all together in the steppe as a hymn to happiness. The film, through the encounter with musicians, researchers and manufacturers, is a unique road trip in search of the soul of this instrument.
|June 21, 2012 8:00 pm||to||June 24, 2012 11:00 pm|
The rite of light takes place only once a year close to the summer solstice. The Fondazione Fiumara d’Arte organizes this event every June. Its founder Antonio Presti is an entrepreneur turned philanthropist to fight the Mafia in Sicily. Visitors will have the possibility to access the Pyramid (photo below), a sculpture created by artist Mauro Staccioli. Among the artists selected this year are Giovanni Levanti, Mario Trimarchi, Aldo Baker, Chris Kabel, Michael Obrist, Vered Zaykovsky and Wyssem Nochi.
About Antonio Presti
Presti was born in Messina in 1957. He has been staging his resistance for 30 years. At the age of 21 he decided to use the fortune left by his father – a public works contractor who worked hand in glove with local politicians and Cosa Nostra bosses – to combat the mafia system on the island. How? By investing in culture. His maiden project was called La fiumara d’arte [The Torrent of Art]. It involved building a sculpture park, the biggest in Europe, from the Nebrodi mountains, near Pettineo, his father’s village, all the way to the northern coast of the island.
More about this event at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=134969626578131
Giovanni Falcone (Palermo, 18 May 1939 – Palermo, 23 May 1992) was an Italian prosecuting magistrate born in Palermo, Sicily. From his office in the Palace of Justice in Palermo, he spent most of his professional life trying to overthrow the power of the Mafia in Sicily. After a long and distinguished career, culminating in the famous Maxi Trial, he was killed by the Corleonesi Mafia in May 1992, on the motorway near the town of Capaci.
His life parallels that of his close friend Paolo Borsellino. Both men spent their early years in the same poor neighbourhood in Palermo. And though many of their childhood friends grew up to be Mafia figures, both men fought on the other side of the war as prosecuting magistrates. They were both assassinated in 1992 with the use of car bombs within months of each other. In recognition of their tireless effort and sacrifice during the anti-mafia trials, they were both awarded the Italian “Medaglia d’oro al valore civile” (Gold medal for civil valor). They were also named as heroes of the last 60 years in the 13 November 2006 issue of Time Magazine.
Falcone was born in 1939 to a middle class family in the Via Castrofilippo near the seaport district La Kalsa, a neighborhood of central Palermo which suffered extensive destruction by aerial attacks during the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. The Mafia was present in the area but quiescent; Tommaso Spadaro, a boy with whom he played ping-pong in the neighborhood Catholic Action recreation center, would later become a notorious Mafia smuggler and killer, but mafiosi were not a major presence in his childhood. As boys Falcone and Borsellino, who was born in the same neighbourhood, played soccer together on the Piazza Mangione.
His father, Arturo Falcone, the director of a provincial chemical laboratory, was married to Luisa Bentivegna. Giovanni had two older sisters, Anna and Maria. After a classical education, Giovanni studied law at the University of Palermo following a brief period of study at Livorno’s naval academy. Graduating in 1961, he began to practice law before being appointed a judge in 1964. Falcone eventually gravitated toward penal law after serving as a district magistrate. He was assigned to the prosecutor’s office in Trapani and Marsala, and then in 1978 to the bankruptcy court in Palermo.
First trial against the Mafia
In early 1980, Falcone joined the ‘Office of Instruction’ (Ufficio istruzione), the investigative branch of the Prosecution Office of Palermo. He started to work at a particularly tense moment. Judge Cesare Terranova, a former parliamentary deputy and Antimafia reformer who had been the main prosecutor of the Mafia in the 1960s, was to have headed this office, but he was killed on September 25, 1979. Only two months earlier, on July 21, 1979, Boris Giuliano, head of the police investigation squad investigating heroin trafficking by the Mafia headed by Rosario Spatola and Salvatore Inzerillo, had been assassinated. Taking Terranova’s place was Rocco Chinnici.
On May 5, 1980, Giuliano successor in investigating the heroin network, Carabinieri captain Emanuele Basile, was killed. The next day, the prosecuting judgeGaetano Costa signed 55 arrest warrants against the heroin-trafficking network of the Spatola-Inzerillo-Gambino clan. From Sicily heroin was moved to theGambino crime family in New York, who were related to the Inzerillos. Chinnici appointed Falcone to investigate the case, one of the biggest Antimafia operations in more than a decade. Costa signed the indict¬ments after virtually all of the other prosecutors in his office had declined to do so – a fact that leaked out of the office and eventually cost him his life. He was murdered on 6 August 1980, on the orders of Inzerillo.
In this tense ambiance, Falcone introduced an innovative investigative technique in the Spatola investigation, following “the money trail” created by heroin deals to build his case, applying the skills he had learned unraveling bankruptcies. He was probably among the first Sicilian magistrates to establish working relationships with colleagues from other countries, thus developing an early understanding of the global dimensions of heroin trafficking, while enhancing the ridiculously meager investigative resources of his office.
He learned that the chemists of the French Connection had moved clandestine labs for refining heroin from Marseilles to Sicily. At the end of 1980 he visited the United States and started to work with the U.S. Justice Department which would result in “some of the biggest international law enforcement operations in history” such as the Pizza Connection. The inquiries extended to Turkey, an important stopover on the route of morphine base; to Switzerland, where bank secrecy laws facilitated money laundering; and to Naples where cigarette smuggling rings were being reconfigured as heroin operations. At the end of 1981, he finalized the Spatola case for trial, which enabled the prosecution to win 74 convictions, based on Falcone’s “web of solid evidence, bank and travel records, seized heroin shipments, fingerprint and handwriting analyses, wiretapped conversations and firsthand testimony” that proved that “Sicily had replaced France as the principal gateway for refining and exporting heroin to the United States”.
Falcone was plagued by a chronic lack of resources in his capacity as magistrate. In May 1982, the Italian government sent Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, a general of the Italian Carabinieri, to Sicily with orders to crush the Mafia. However, not long after arriving, on 3 September 1982, the General was gunned down in the city centre, his young wife by his side. Sicilians rose up in outrage. Outside the church, the politicians who attended were jeered and spat on, and blamed by Sicilians for tolerating the Mafia for so long. In response, the Italian government finally offered Falcone the backing he needed.
Falcone’s responsibilities as a magistrate put tremendous strain on his personal life. When he married his fiancée, Francesca Morvillo, Falcone had MayorLeoluca Orlando himself conduct the ceremony. It was held in total secrecy late on a Saturday evening to the astonishment of Orlando’s secretary. Neither family members nor friends were present, no photos were taken.
He became part of Palermo’s informal Antimafia Pool, created by Judge Rocco Chinnici. This was a group of investigating magistrates who closely worked together sharing information and developing new investigative and prosecutorial strategies. Most important, they assumed collective responsibility for carrying Mafia prosecutions forward: all the members of the pool signed prosecutorial orders to avoid exposing any one of them to particular risk, such as the one that had cost judge Gaetano Costa his life. Next to Falcone, the group included Paolo Borsellino, Giuseppe Di Lello and Leonardo Guarnotta.
The Antimafia pool laid the groundwork for the Maxi Trial against the Sicilian Mafia at the preliminary investigative phase. After Chinnici’s murder in July 1983, his successor Antonino Caponnetto headed the pool. Falcone led the prosecution for the trial, which began 10 February 1986, and ended on 16 December 1987. Of the 474 Mafiosi members originally charged, 360 were convicted of serious crimes, including 119 in absentia.
One of the most important factors in the trial was the testimony of Tommaso Buscetta, one of the first ever Sicilian Mafiosi to become an informant (pentito). He was on the witness stand for an entire week. It was Falcone to whom Buscetta preferred to speak when revealing the secrets of the Mafia, and Buscetta later claimed that whilst other magistrates and detectives patronized him, Falcone treated him with respect.
During 1988 Falcone collaborated with Rudolph Giuliani, at the time U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in operations against the Gambinoand Inzerillo families.
After Falcone’s successes in the Maxi Trial, the seriousness of Tommaso Buscetta’s warnings that the Mafia would stop at nothing to end the magistrate’s life, became clear. Despite the care he took with his safety, in June 1989 as Falcone relaxed outside his beach house, a security guard noticed an abandoned sports bag at the water’s edge. It contained 58 sticks of plastic explosives, primed to explode if picked up. The bomb did not go off. After the incident, he was heard to remark the following to Liliana Ferraro, a long-term colleague and friend: “My life is mapped out: it is my destiny to take a bullet by the Mafia some day. The only thing I don’t know is when.”
On 23 May 1992 on the orders of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, a half-ton bomb was placed under the motorway between Palermo International Airport and the city of Palermo. Riina’s men hid in a building above the road and remotely detonated the device. Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo and body guards Rocco Dicillo, Antonio Montinaro and Vito Schifani were killed in the blast. The explosion was so powerful that it registered on local earthquake monitors. Thousands gathered at the Basilica of San Domenico for their funeral. The funeral was broadcast live on national TV and all regular television programs were suspended. Parliament declared a day of mourning.
The murder was organized by Salvatore Riina as revenge for Falcone’s conviction of dozens of mobsters in the Maxi Trials. Riina reportedly threw a party, toasting Falcone’s death with champagne, according to the pentito Salvatore Cancemi. In the major crackdown against the Mafia following Falcone and Borsellino’s deaths, Riina was arrested and is now serving a life sentence for sanctioning the murders of both magistrates as well as many other crimes. Another Mafioso convicted of the murder of Falcone is Giovanni Brusca, also known as lo scannacristiani (the people slaughterer). He was one of Riina’s associates who admitted to being the one who ‘detonated the explosives.
Palermo International Airport has been named Falcone-Borsellino Airport in honor of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. A memorial of the pair by the local sculptor Tommaso Geraci can be found there. Falcone was posthumously awarded the Train Foundation’s Civil Courage Prize, which recognizes “extraordinary heroes of conscience”.
Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.
Addiopizzo Travel will commemorate the assassination of Giovanni Falcone by repainting the sign that written after the days when the Palermitan judge was killed with his wife and bodyguards on May 22, 1993.
Addiopizzo Travel provides ethical tours of Sicily. We do this by taking tourists to those businesses who have said “no” to the Mafia’s requests for protection money. The name given to this protection money is ‘Pizzo’, join us and you will travel “mafia-free” and ‘pizzo-free’! From AddioPizzoTravel.it
Giovanni Falcone (18 May 1939 – 23 May 1992) was a Sicilian/Italian prosecuting magistrate born in Palermo,Sicily. From his office in the Palace of Justice in Palermo, he spent most of his professional life trying to overthrow the power of the Mafia in Sicily. After a long and distinguished career, culminating in the famous Maxi Trial, he was killed by the Corleonesi Mafia in May 1992, on the motorway near the town of Capaci. From Wikipedia.com
Peppino Impastato was killed by the mafia in Cinisi 34 years ago. He was a young left-wing activist, who dared attacking the power and the interests of “Cosa Nostra” through his radio station “Radio Aut”.
Peppino Impastato was born in Cinisi in a mafia-related family, but he refused this destiny and broke up with his family when he was still a young boy. Peppino Impastato spoke spoke out against the mafia and denounced local politicians for their complicity. This wrote his death sentence.
Peppino Impastato was killed by an explosion on May 9, 1978. The police archived the case as terrorist attack, then as a suicide, but his friends never accepted this fabricated truth.
After 23 years of legal battles, the local boss Tano Badalamenti was sentenced to life prison for this homicide. Each year on May 9, many events take place in Cinisi to commemorate Peppino Impastato. A full week of debates, conferences and workshops end with a march departing from the historic headquarters of Radio Aut station to the Peppino’s house.
I Cento Passi (The One-Hundred Steps), film released in 2000 and directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, tells the story of Peppino Impastato. One hundred was the numer of the steps it took to get from Peppino’s home to the house of Tano Badalamenti.
This movie has won several awards such as the David di Donatello Award 2001, Brussel Film Festival 2001 and Venice Film Festival and has given notoriety to Peppino’s story who lost his life against the mafia.
Sicily is not really industrial, but some areas have been devastated by industrial developments that have gone badly. Recently, I received a message by one of SicilyGuide followers signaling the article A haven in an industrial wasteland by Sarah Raven. Our follower was upset at the article because it was diminishing Sicily in her own view.
Mrs. Raven talks about how she was convinced by her husband to visit the island and how shocked she was when she first saw the area between Syracuse and Augusta:
a completely trashed, industrialised catastrophe.
She goes on:
Then I started to walk out towards the point. On either side of the track emerged one of the most abundant and glorious gatherings of spring flowers that I’ve ever seen. That’s Sicily for you – an appallingly managed and largely wrecked landscape, sheltering in its nooks and crannies all the riches of Mediterranean flora you might ever dream of. The building boom in the past 20 years – inextricably linked with the ever-present Mafia – has all but ruined the place. But in the leftover spaces one glimpses the naturally rich Arcadia that Sicily once was.
Even if these are harsh words, I beg to differ with our reader. Somehow I can relate more to Mrs. Raven. Coming from nearby Milazzo – an area that can be compared to the one the journalist refers to in the article. I share these same strong feelings. Although I love being there, I also get extremely angry when I see the garbage all around and how the beauty of the area has been severely damaged by the refinery and fossil fuel-fired electric power plant in San Filippo del Mela.
This video by the Qbeta - a Sicilian folk group – is a parody of the area (unfortunately the song is in Italian only).
Here is an approximate translation from Google Translate of the song:
Go … My heart from flower to flower gently and with love for me … Go … that my happiness lives only reality near you … I want to live like this with sunny faces and happy singing blissfully … I want to live and to rejoice the air of the mountain because this spell does not cost anything Ah, ah! Today I ardently love that stream impertinent minstrel of ah, ah! The blossoming of the trees shall feast this heart you know why? I want to live well with sunny faces and happy song I sing to myself. . . . . . . Ah, ah! Today I ardently love that stream impertinent minstrel of love Ah, ah! The blossoming of the trees shall feast this heart you know why? I want to live well with sunny faces and happy singing song for me!
Locals are exasperated by the situation, but they feel powerless. Sicilians have been fighting relentlessly throughout history with little payback. But they should know that nothing is permanent. They should not lose hope and should look at their land as the foreign journalist does in her article discovering flowers and colors that she never saw before with a critical approach.
This seemed to be the signature of Sicily, an occasional paradise in what is being turned into hell. The tide of lava, concrete breeze blocks and plastic polytunnels seems set to continue to swallow it up. For flower lovers, the sooner you visit, the better.
Sicily is unique and authentic. No matter what, it cannot leave the visitor indifferent. Someday perhaps I will learn how to accept Sicily in its totality.
Mario Borghezio, an Italian politician from the Northern League, is not new to controversy and discriminatory offenses. Now that the Northern League is in deep troubles because of scandals that touch the top leaders of his party and imply even business relations between the party and the ‘Ndrangheta, he goes off even louder saying that the Italian regions of Sicily and Campania should be sold to the US to free Italy from the Mafia and reduce the Italian debt.
For Borghezio, it is always Roma ladrona‘s fault even when the ladri is them… It is never the fault of the petty Italian ruling class that has not been capable to put together a country smaller than Texas after 150 years. Listen here for yourself (unfortunately, Italian ONLY).
We have been away for a while. In the meantime, Sicily has not been waiting for us to be in the news. Here is a little catching up with what has happened in the past weeks.
Beginning April 21, Getty Villa guests will be able to view items from the ancient city of Morgantina.
Emanuele Viscuso has brought a slice of Italy to Miami. The founder of the Sicilian International Film Festival, now under way through April 17, visited in 2000 and decided to put down roots.
Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark shot a final round 69 to win the Sicilian Open by 1 shot, holding off England’s Chris Wood who equaled the course record with an 8-under 64 on Sunday April 15.
A 4.3 magnitude earthquake has struck in the sea off Italy’s Sicily, sending residents into the streets but with no immediate reports of victims or injuries, officials said on April 13.
Mount Etna erupts not far from Zafferana Etnea village on April 13.
One of Sicily’s most ambitious winemakers, Planeta, has taken on a new challenge by tackling its French competitors head on with its first Brut Classic to be released this year. April 5
Fountains of lava and ash spew out of Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, in the early morning of April 1 on the Italian island of Sicily.
A city clerk in Palermo is being investigated over alleged irregularities in the issuing of voting card duplicates. March 30
In one of the most extraordinary discoveries in recent years, an opera that experts say is the long-lost first work by Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1834) was found during an archeological dig in Sicily.
The Sicilian mafia pockets more than a third of all the money allocated by the central government in Rome for public services on the island, according to a study to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2012 annual conference. March 23
Photo: Castellammare del Golfo (TP) by Joe Zarba