Through the cross-examination of sources of various type – parliamentary reports, court verdicts, authorization requests to begin proceedings, police reports, newspaper articles and books – this research examines the strategies and patterns of the Sicilian Mafia between 1989 and 2006, a crucial period of transition in history in which the Mafia had to cope with the problems of redefining its rapport with political power and finding a new role in a rapidly changing world.
When this phase of transition began with the fall of the Berlin Wall, Cosa Nostra was on trial with the real possibility of facing its first historical defeat in court. Whereas previously the Mafia had always emerged stronger from crucial moments of transition in history – the abolition of feudalism, the national unification of Italy, the Second World War – this time there was the serious risk that things would go differently. In this light, a process of metamorphosis, complicated by an unprecedentedly difficult judiciary situation, was necessary in order to survive. To successfully complete this process, the Mafia had to preserve its core characteristic: its organic rapport with politics, which could save it and enable it to come through such a dangerous phase.
This work analyzes this evolutionary cycle and the characteristics of this change. Undermined by the repression of the law enforcement agencies that followed the bloodshed of 1992–1993, the Mafia adopted the only strategy that could be succesful: returning to its most traditional pattern of operating in the shadow of political power. Cosa Nostra members were forced to progressively leave the control of operations of which they were traditionally in charge to a new generation of white-collar mafiosi. An increasing number of subjects, who in the previous phase were at best simply consultants of the bosses, became bosses themselves and took a guiding role. This process implied a further liquefaction of the Mafia into politics, which allows for the conclusion that the inevitable discontinuities of history – the changes within the Mafia – were, even in this case, absorbed by the great continuity of the rapport between the Mafia and politics. This process was favored by the media, which relegated the subject of the Mafia to a role of secondary importance, both in terms of quantity and quality: the Mafia progressively disappeared from public debate, except when it was convenient for political power: that is, for amplifying the constant accusations of some politicians, especially those of Berlusconi’s side, against both magistrates and allegedly ‘unreliable’ and privileged Mafia turncoats. Within this metamorphosis, the case of the State-Mafia deal and that of possible secret prompters behind the 1992–1993 wave of violence play a crucial role. As for the former, leaving the magistrature the task of verifying the criminal charges against the defendants of the so-called State-Mafia Deal Trial, what was possible to demonstrate was that the judiciary policies of all the Italian governments that succeeded from 1994 to 2006 – to a greater or lesser extent and in different ways depending on the case and circumstances – were favorable to the Mafia and met its requests as listed by Riina in his papello, a sort of written contract between Cosa Nostra and the Italian State. Once again, the attitude of Italy’s governments towards the Mafia was not simply one of disinterest, but one of compromise. With Berlusconi in power, the help given to the Mafia, directly or indirectly, was clearly evident. The laws passed under the Second Berlusconi Government – such as those regulating false accounting, rogatory letters, money repatriation, as well as quite a few others – all had effects that were favorable to organized crime groups, as they prevented, slowed, or hindered all trials, including Mafia trials. But what was the most favorable to the Mafia was the contempt of the government and the majority supporting it towards that part of the judiciary most truly committed to fighting both organized crime and corruption.
The attitude towards the Mafia of the center-left coalition governments was more ambiguous. However, the political conditions, and in particular the political-judicial ones, that satisfied or attempted to satisfy the requests of Cosa Nostra were recreated by the center-left government, with Berlusconi relegated to the parliamentary benches of the opposition after the anticipated fall of his government just a few months after coming to power. The subject of the secret promoters behind the 1992–1993 violence remains bitterly controversial and debated. Considered as ascertained by some magistrates, commentators and scholars, their presence is substantially impossible for those who assume that the wave of violence can be explained solely by internal dynamics within Cosa Nostra, by its brutal, blind tactic of fighting a frontal war against the Italian State in order to force it to take a step back in its – albeit always uncertain – fight against organized crime. Leaving the judiciary the task of establishing whether or not these prompters existed and who they were – a job that becomes progressively more difficult to accomplish with the passing of years – this study reconstructs the circumstantial evidence that led to claim existence of them behind the 1992–1993 violence.