Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tried Out: "The Honored Society" by Petra Reski

Tried Out:The Honored Society: a portrait of Italy's most powerful Mafia by Petra Reski, 2013 (English translation, printed 2008 in German), 9781568589732.

I am inclined to read about Italian crime after reading Roberto Saviano's book Gomorrah.

Reski gives a rundown of how the Italian mafias exert so much power in Southern Italy and national politics. The book is mostly Reski's reminiscing of the many mafiosi, victims, prosecutors, locals, and others she has interviewed and reported on over the years. Reski first visited Sicily after watching The Godfather and has lived there since 1989.

Reski has reported on the mafia for decades. Arrests, kidnappings, and murders are old hat in Southern Italy. The rest of Europe thinks the mafia are an Italian problem, But, when six Italian mafiosi were murdered in a Duisberg, Germany restaurant in 2007 the Germans went, "What the hell?!" and Reski was in demand and put out a book.

Reskie tells some of her favorite tales and how the mafia is ingrained in Italian society. 25 years ago there was a anti-mafia resurgence in Sicily. Public prosecutors Falcone and Borsellino were facing down death threats and locking up mafiosi after long, mass trials. Falcone and Borsellino could only face down so many threats. Falcone certainly couldn't stand up to the 1,000 pounds of explosives placed under a public highway in Sicily that killed Falcone, his wife and three bodyguards. Borsellino was killed two months later in another bombing.

The mob pays off some people, scares others away, and kills the rest. The fate of a hit man is to fear his best friends because those friends are the ones tasked to kill him. There are clear links and evidence linking prominent Italian politicians - including the freaking Prime Minister Berlusconi - to the mafia. One of the dominant political parties, Forza Italia, teamed with the mafias to reach power. Once Forza was in charge they started dismantling many of the most effective laws used to investigate and prosecute the mob.

Anyway. There are plenty of stories and Reski uses her good friends, the prominent photographers Letizzia and Sobha, to illustrate life in Sicily. How turncoats are despised by their own families. Public construction contracts are a mafia cash cow. European Union money flowing to Italy is siphoned by the mob. Massive amounts of mob dough buy legitimate businesses. So on, So forth.

1. A particular despicable tale is how the 12-year-old son of an informant is kidnapped. The boy is held for two years and repeatedly tortured. He is strangled to death and his body dissolved in acid.
2. Re: Politicians changing the rules to favor themselves. Don't think it doesn't happen here. Take a look at the recent legislation in Wisconsin.

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