The trattativa Stato-mafia: an introduction

Catherine Williams   La Trobe University

In the blistering Sicilian sun I sit, together with hundreds of students, awaiting the arrival of Antonio Ingroia who this morning* will participate in a public conversation as part of the Festival della Legalità (a week-long event held annually in Palermo). Behind me a group of boys scans the piazza and the palazzi towering above it for would-be assassins, keen to protect a man who has become, for many, a national hero.

As Ingroia enters the piazza the students break into applause; he takes to the stage flanked by two agents from his security escort, and the conversation with journalist Riccardo Lo Verso begins. At Lo Verso’s first question Ingroia, with a discourse mighty in its linearity and clarity, slices through decades of modern Italian history, focusing on Italy’s experience of organized crime, corruption and, in particular, the trattativa Stato-mafia. Below is a synopsis of Ingroia’s description of what prosecutors allege constitutes this trattativa:

To frame the historical context we need to go back to 1992, when the Christian Democrat Salvo Lima (acknowledged to be the politician who maintained relations with the mafia and was the symbol of the pact between it and politics in that period) is assassinated. Lima’s death follows the Court of Cassation decision confirming the convictions won as part of Falcone and Borsellino’s maxiprocesso, which the mafia perceived as evidence of a failure by that part of politics which had protected it, and maintained a mutually beneficial relationship with it, until that moment; it therefore killed the man who represented the relationship between it and the state.

Lima’s assassination sparks panic in the political world, particularly amongst those politicians who fear being condemned to the same fate. At this point, some politicians who feel at risk from the mafia try to exploit their political power to understand if they are to be assassinated, and whether it is possible to avoid this open war – whether it is possible to negotiate a new pact. But the mafia continues with the slaughter. A few months later it kills Falcone: this spurs on panic within the state, and especially in the world of politics. Borsellino forges ahead with intransigence, fighting for ever-stronger laws against the mafia – and some of the laws he agitates for are passed.

But behind the scenes, some politicians continue to negotiate with the mafia. Contacts are developed in particular with Vito Ciancimino. Ciancimino, mafioso and ex-mayor of Palermo, was the man who was best able to act as an interface between the mafia and politics and open a dialogue, to let the mafia know that there is a part of the state disposed to negotiating and asking the mafia what it needs to stop the slaughter. News of this, according to various ‘pentiti’, arrives at the boss of bosses of that time, TotòRiina, who prepares the so-called ‘papello’ (a long list of requests made by the mafia of the state – some feasible, others not).

The negotiations continue at a distance (there is never an in-person meeting between the mafia bosses and the state’s representatives) before an agreement is arrived at – a verbal agreement which leads to the mafia abandoning its plans to kill certain politicians. But because not everyone is willing to negotiate with the mafia the agreement works only in part, and so some mafiosi continue killing. Borsellino is assassinated because he is an obstacle, and then in 1993 the mafia changes strategy and decides to strike outside Sicily: there is the attack on television presenter Maurizio Costanzo, then the bombs in Florence, and then the bombs in Rome and Milan.

In the midst of all this, there are some politicians who continue to negotiate with the mafia; suddenly some progress appears to have been made when in 1993 article 41 bis (establishing a rigorous penal regime for those imprisoned for particular crimes, including mafia crime) is loosened and some mafiosi are spared it, despite adverse recommendations from prosecutors.  This negotiating-at-a-distance continues until 1994, when a new pact is concluded.

On 1 October 2012, the historic trial arising from this alleged trattativa opened with twelve mafiosi, politicians, and representatives of the state’s institutions and armed forces facing charges: five mafiosi are charged with threatening the state, five politicians and institutional representatives with complicity in threatening the state, another with complicit mafia association and another with perjury. Ingroia has promised that from Guatemala (where he has accepted a year-long post with the United Nations) he will elaborate on “certain things” which he has not yet been able to in relation to the trattativa, because he will feel less like his hands “are tied”.  We will await with great interest what else it is that he has to say.

*The event took place on 4 October 2012

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2 thoughts on “The trattativa Stato-mafia: an introduction

  1. DM says:

    Since you wrote this, Catherine, Ingroia has decided to enter politics at the head of Rivoluzione Civile and Pietro Grasso, the procuratore nazionale antimafia, is to be a PD candidate. I wonder what you think about their decisions?

    • Catherine Williams says:

      Sto seguendo la vicenda relativa ad Ingroia con molto interesse. Ho tantissimo rispetto per lui: lo ritengo un uomo brillante che ha dedicato la vita al suo lavoro e avendolo conosciuto, anche se solo per un’intervista, non ho dubbi sulla sua integrità.

      Nessuno, tanto meno io, può sapere cosa realmente lo abbia spinto a scendere in politica, soprattutto se si considera il fatto che ha dovuto rinunciare al tanto pubblicizzato incarico per l’Onu in Guatemala. Il 2012 è stato per lui un anno ricco di polemiche, dapprima le aspre critiche da parte del CSM dopo che Ingroia ha dichiarato di essere un partigiano della Costituzione, poi la polemica relativa alle intercettazioni telefoniche al Presidente Napolitano, poi ancora un generale attacco nei suoi confronti da parte di diverse fazioni politiche, strumentalizzato per delegittimare il processo sulla trattativa Stato-Mafia che lui in qualche modo impersonifica. Quindi lasciare la magistratura uguale evitare che critiche personali possano porre ombre sul processo.

      Al di là di tutto mi piace credere, come lui stesso ha dichiarato, che sia l’unico modo per portare a termine il suo lavoro e cioè porsi della parte di chi legifera dopo aver speso l’intera carriera dalla parte chi esegue, e combattere da un’altra posizione per l’applicazione fedele della Costituzione.

      Detto questo, forse la tempistica non è proprio ideale, forse sarebbe stato meglio aspettare un po’ di più. Solo 3 mesi fa Ingroia era ancora procuratore aggiunto di Palermo. Sarà una scelta dannosa per il processo alla trattativa? Questo è ancora da vedere – ma di certo c’è il rischio che gli avvocati difensori degli imputati cerchino di screditare le indagini di Ingroia attaccandole perchè politicizzate. Ingroia avrà valutato questo e la sua scelta di candidarsi adesso mostra o che non crede ci sia questo rischio o che i potenziali vantaggi giustifichino il rischio stesso, o che ha paura che senza di lui il processo prenda una brutta piega. Va detto però che, da un’altra prospettiva, la tempistica potrebbe essere ideale poichè mai come adesso l’Italia ha bisogno di integrità, di un vero “onorevole” leader, e di una classe politica nuova per superare gli scandali che hanno visto protagonisti certi politici italiani fino ad ora.

      Ingroia non è il primo ex-procuratore a scendere in politica: Di Pietro l’ha fatto piu’ di 15 anni fa dopo i successi di Tangentopoli, con risultati altalenanti, De Magistris è ora sindaco di Napoli e Pietro Grasso si candiderà alle prossime elezoni con il Pd. Ma senza dubbio Ingroia è quello più importante. Potrà mantenere la sua integrità personale, e in concomitanza quella delle indagini compiute durante la sua carriera da magistrato?

      Personalmente spero che lui e la sua Rivoluzione Civile troveranno successo

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