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Viewing cable 09NAPLES69, SICILY: REGIONAL GOVERNMENT IN TURMOIL WHILE THE MAFIA IS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09NAPLES69 2009-06-15 07:07 2011-01-07 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Naples
VZCZCXRO8518
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHNP #0069/01 1660739
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 150739Z JUN 09
FM AMCONSUL NAPLES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6417
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHMIL/AMCONSUL MILAN 0176
RUEHFL/AMCONSUL FLORENCE 0146
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEABND/DEA HQ WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/COMSIXTHFLT
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 0001
RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/COMUSNAVEUR NAPLES IT
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES 1168
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 NAPLES 000069

SIPDIS

TREASURY FOR OFAC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 6/15/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL KCRM ECON SNAR MARR KCOR IT
SUBJECT: SICILY: REGIONAL GOVERNMENT IN TURMOIL WHILE THE MAFIA IS
DOWN, BUT NOT OUT

REF: A) 08 NAPLES 38, B) 08 NAPLES 9, C) ROME 600, D) NAPLES 64

NAPLES 00000069 001.2 OF 005


CLASSIFIED BY: J. Patick Truhn, Consul General, AmConGen Naples.

REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: As host to an important U.S. Navy base,
location of recently discovered gas reserves, and home to 17,000
U.S. citizens, Sicily's future is clearly of interest to the
United States. For now, political feuding has replaced the war
on organized crime in the headlines: Regional President
Raffaele Lombardo dissolved the regional cabinet on May 25 after
months of tensions with his coalition partner, Prime Minister
Berlusconi's party. The rocky relations between Palermo and
Rome have resulted in Berlusconi's blockage of four billion
euros in EU structural funds for the region. Political
grandstanding blocked an American gas drilling operation last
year, and threatens to at least delay an important U.S. Navy
satellite communications system. However, the major challenge
to economic development remains the Mafia, which may well be the
principal beneficiary if the bridge over the Strait of Messina,
talked about for centuries, is eventually built. A variety of
interlocutors in several Sicilian cities told us during recent
visits that the grip of organized crime has loosened through a
combination of law enforcement success and civil society
rebellion against the Cosa Nostra. Anti-Mafia prosecutors are
optimistic they can continue to make progress against the mob,
but note that ongoing budgetary and personnel constraints
(particularly the difficulty in filling magistrate positions)
hamper their effectiveness. The one exception we have heard to
the optimistic outlook is from a journalist under police
protection from the mob, who believes that most anti-Mafia
measures have been superficial and have not taken root in
society. End summary.

Crossroads of the Mediterranean
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Sicily -- the largest island in the Mediterranean and
Italy's fourth-most populous region -- is in some ways a world
unto itself. At a strategic maritime crossroads, throughout
history it has been conquered and occupied by virtually every
Mediterranean power. Its geographical position may have
contributed to a historical sense of psychological separation
from mainland Italy, manifested today in a thriving local
dialect and the homegrown political party that now holds the
power in the regional government, the Movement for Autonomies
(MPA). It is also the region in our consular district that has
seen the most success in battling organized crime (reftel A),
with numerous arrests of high-level mobsters in the last 16
years and a growing number of anti-extortion NGOs making
headlines. Sicily also has the highest official unemployment
rate and highest poverty rate of any Italian region. Its
importance to the United States is clear: Sicily hosts the U.S.
Navy's Sigonella Naval Air Station (the second-busiest military
air station in Europe); several American companies have
substantial direct investments there, including IBM, Wyeth and
Exxon-Mobil; and the region hosts large natural gas deposits.

Prosecutors Understaffed and Underfunded
--------------------------------------------- ------

3. (C) During two recent ConGen 2009 visits to Sicily,
anti-Mafia prosecutors in Palermo, Caltanissetta and Trapani --
three of the four anti-Mafia judicial districts in the region --
told us they are optimistic that they are winning the battle
against organized crime. Without exception, they praised
cooperation with U.S. law enforcement, noting that there are
still strong ties between the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and American
organized crime groups. Antonio Ingroia, a prosecutor in
Palermo, noted happily that Sicilian schools are now conducting
anti-Mafia awareness programs, and anti-extortion movements
(such as the Industrialists Confederation and the NGO "Addio
Pizzo" -- see ref A) are having a positive effect. Nonetheless,
all is not rosy: like their colleagues in other parts of
southern Italy, the prosecutors complained that they are
understaffed and underfunded. Indeed, over a quarter of the
anti-Mafia magistrate positions are vacant in Palermo, and only
three of seven positions are filled in Caltanissetta. Palermo's
Prosecutor-in-Chief, Francesco Messineo, told the CG that 14 of
64 overall prosecutor positions (not just anti-Mafia) there are

NAPLES 00000069 002.2 OF 005


unfilled, and the understaffing is likely to continue for at
least four years. Ingroia opined that his team had been a
victim of its own success; the central government, believing the
Sicilian Mafia to be reeling from so many arrests, has cut the
budget for investigators there. Sergio Lari, the chief
anti-Mafia prosecutor in Caltanissetta, noted that investigators
have to "beg for gasoline" for official vehicles. Prosecutors
are also deeply concerned over GOI proposals to limit
wiretapping, which they feel is one of their most important
weapons in the fight against organized crime.

Reasons to be Optimistic....
--------------------------------

4. (SBU) The Sicilian Mafia's principal activities are drug
trafficking, extortion, rigging of public contracts and
trafficking in persons, though the mob has also invested heavily
in legal enterprises in the construction and food industries,
and more recently, wind energy. In recent years, law
enforcement authorities have shifted their focus from merely
arresting mobsters to also seizing their assets -- a strategy
described by all our contacts as a powerful tool. However,
local politicians complain that the average time to convert
seized assets into legitimate uses is fifteen years; last
November at the opening of a rural hotel and restaurant in a
former Mafia villa, Interior Minister Maroni pledged to
introduce legislation to streamline the process. The Palermo
anti-Mafia prosecutors group now has a special unit dedicated to
investigating economic and financial crimes; if successful, this
experimental unit may be replicated in other parts of the
country. In addition to asset seizures, investigators spend
more time than ever following money-laundering trails, which
used to be local but are now international. Palermo Chief
Prosecutor Messineo asserted that with the Cosa Nostra's
leadership behind bars, the organization's economic troubles are
such that it is having difficulty making support payments to
family members.

5. (C) A young anti-Mafia activist, Andrea Cottone, told us in
Palermo that a bolder generation is coming of age in Sicily.
The spectacular public assassinations of two anti-Mafia
prosecutors in 1992 left their imprint on those who were then
children and are now young adults. Cottone firmly believes that
this generation will lead the societal rebellion against
extortion. Democratic Party (center-left) national Senator
Beppe Lumia, who sits on the parliamentary Anti-Mafia Committee,
asserted that the state is winning the "military" war against
the Cosa Nostra, but had to do a better job on the political and
economic fronts. He, too, was heartened by civil society
movements against organized crime. Chief Prosecutor Messineo
reported that there have been no verified mob-related killings
in Palermo in two years, in contrast to the long-time average of
60 or 70 per year.

....But Not Over-Optimistic
--------------------------------

6. (C) Other interlocutors cautioned against over-optimistic
assessments. Pietro Vento, the director of Demopolis, Sicily's
best-known polling organization, reported to us that 80 percent
of Sicilian businesses still pay extortion, and only a handful
of businesses owners are actually standing up to the Mafia. (He
said that most businesses that do not pay do so because they are
not asked for the "pizzo" not out of a brave act of refusal.)
Trapani Chief Prosecutor Giacomo Bodero Maccabeo told the CG
that the environment of "unemployment, fear and ignorance"
provided ample breeding ground for organized crime. According
to Maccabeo, Trapani's cement and concrete industries are
dominated by the Mafia, and he had personally ordered the
seizure of sixteen production plants. He told the CG that
organized crime tries to rig all public works contracts, and
that the mob has a virtual monopoly on what little employment
there is in the area. Lirio Abbate, a Palermo journalist who
has exposed mob activities and lives under police escort after
authorities uncovered a plot to kill him, was even more
downbeat. Abbate is convinced that the Cosa Nostra is not in

NAPLES 00000069 003.2 OF 005


decline, and asserted that the civil society rebellion is
actually very small and has little effect. As an example, he
cited the regional Industrialists Confederation, which in
September 2007 adopted a highly publicized policy to expel
members who pay extortion. Abbate stated that, despite
announcements to the contrary, the Confederation has not
expelled a single member, even though it has evidence that many
of its members are cooperating with the Mafia. He added that
acts of arson against non-payers are almost daily events, but
receive little publicity. Abbate also railed against corruption
in Sicilian politics, accusing all political parties of having
ties to organized crime, an observation echoed by the
prosecutors in Caltanissetta. They told us that although the
Cosa Nostra controls a relatively small percentage of votes, it
is enough to tip elections in favor of their preferred
candidates in most cases. In January 2008, then-regional
president Salvatore Cuffaro was convicted of aiding the Mafia
and sentenced to five years in prison; he was also barred for
life from holding public office (ref B). Cuffaro promptly
appealed, after a much-publicized "celebration" with a tray of
cannoli, and while waiting for the decision (still pending, a
year-and-a-half later), won election to the national Senate.

Political Turmoil
--------------------

7. (C) Cuffaro's successor is the Catania-born founder of the
Movement for Autonomy (MPA), Raffaele Lombardo, whom several
contacts described as a conventional politician who effectively
doles out patronage for support. The MPA, founded in 2005,
seeks to give Italy's regions greater autonomy, and in
particular to "restore" to Sicily and the South their "guiding
role" for the Mediterranean countries. Lombardo -- who sees
himself as the South's counterpart to the Northern League's
Umberto Bossi -- allegedly wants to expand his sphere of
influence by founding a new party called the Party of the South
(PDS), but is unlikely to find support from other southern
regions. Lombardo came to power in coalition with the PDL, but
the lack of any common ideology or interests quickly led to an
open breach between them. The MPA has openly opposed Rome's
anti-immigration policies (refs C-D), and is currently holding
up the installation of a GOI-approved U.S. Navy satellite
communications system near the town of Niscemi. The latter was
opposed by a group of local mayors, who have successfully used
local media to spread conjectures -- unsupported even by
scientists brought in by the mayors as experts -- that the
installation poses grave environmental health risks to the local
population. (Note: U.S. Navy studies, which have been validated
by the Italian Ministry of Defense, make clear that the
electromagnetic emissions of the proposed antennae fall well
below Italian and EU limits. End note.) Sicily's regional
minister for environment has delayed granting approval to
operate pending further environmental impact analysis, but the
Consulate continues to press for resolution. The disinformation
campaign by the local mayors parallels a successful campaign a
year ago to block natural gas drilling by Texas-based Panther
Eureka Gas in the province of Ragusa, after the regional
government had initially approved the environmental impact
assessment and granted an exploration license. Local mayors
blocked drilling through a series of unsubstantiated but
successful court suits, alleging the drilling would damage the
area's cultural heritage; as a result Panther has all but
stopped operations after the delays cost the company hundreds of
thousands of euros.

8. (C) Lombardo's Sicily-first approach means he has little
time for foreign officials; in his previous position as
President of the Province of Catania he granted the CG a
five-minute courtesy call, and as President of the Region has
declined to receive either Ambassador Spogli or the current
Charge on trips to Palermo, to the chagrin of his staff. The
feud between Lombardo and the PDL is also fueled by personality
clashes between Lombardo and Italian Senate President Renato
Schifani, Justice Minister Angelino Alfano, and Regional
Assembly President Francesco Cascio (all PDL). On May 25, two
weeks before elections for the European Parliament, Lombardo

NAPLES 00000069 004.2 OF 005


dissolved his cabinet; according to press reports, the move came
in reaction to an interview by Berlusconi with local Sicilian
television indicating that four billion euros in structural
funds for the region, which have been blocked in Rome for five
months, would only be delivered when it is certain they will be
spent for structural improvements and not current expenses. A
concurrent strike by Palermo garbage collectors added to the
political turmoil; several people were arrested in early June
for setting fire to the mounds of trash piled up on the city
streets, and Berlusconi dispatched his top emergency official to
the area to try to prevent a health emergency. The Demopolis
pollster Vento told us that despite the bad blood between MPA
and PDL, both parties will continue to garner strong support at
the expense of the center-left. Lombardo is expected to patch
up his differences with Berlusconi in the near future now that
the elections for the European Parliament, in which Lombardo's
MPA ran in coalition with several minor parties.

9. (C) Not all of Sicily's politicians are embroiled in
controversy, and some have publicly stood up to the Mafia. The
mayor of the mob-controlled town of Gela (and successful PD
candidate for the European Parliament) is under police
protection after Prosecutor Lari's team discovered a Cosa Nostra
assassination plot. Antonino Iannazzo, the PDL mayor of
Corleone, a town whose name is synonymous with the Mafia, is
also working to eradicate the scourge of organized crime. He
told us that law enforcement authorities have had tremendous
success in recent years against the infamous Corleonese mob, to
the astonishment of older residents who had insisted that change
was impossible. Iannazzo tirelessly promotes law and order in
his territory, and has formed a consortium with nearby
municipalities to make the best use of property confiscated from
the Mafia. Homes formerly belonging to captured mob bosses Toto
Riina and Bernardo Provenzano are being used as recreation
centers for youth and disabled people, and another property is
now a cooperative producing "Mafia-free" wine. Iannazzo is
overseeing the implementation of one of his own ideas -- the
conversion of a former mob boss's home into a "Museum of
Legality," due to open in Fall 2009. He also claims to be very
meticulous in excluding mafiosi or those paying extortion from
bidding on public contracts.

Catania: The Wild East
-----------------------------

10. (C) In Sicily's second-biggest city and busiest commercial
center (as well as the city closest to the USN's Sigonella Naval
Air Station), Catania, the provincial Treasury Police commander,
General Ignazio Gibilaro, told us that organized crime continues
to thrive on the eastern side of the island. Catania is a final
destination for narcotics (which, he noted, are trafficked into
Italy by the 'Ndrangheta across the strait in Calabria and
distributed in Catania by the Cosa Nostra), weapons and
contraband. General Gibilaro noted that the Mafia is less
hierarchical in Catania than in the rest of the region, and thus
gang wars between different mob factions are commonplace his
district, and weapons have become more potent and prevalent in
recent years. Fraud, rigging of public contracts and money
laundering are also lucrative activities in Catania. In fact,
crime has increased so much that the Treasury Police decided to
upgrade the rank of the provincial commander position to general
from colonel (Gibilaro, recently arrived, is the first general
to oversee the province). The Treasury Police also have a
full-time dedicated task force to protect intellectual property
rights; in the past year, this group has been among the most
active and most successful in southern Italy in confiscating
pirated and counterfeit products, a large proportion of which
are American brands of clothing and shoes.

The Bridge to More Organized Crime
--------------------------------------------

11. (C) Berlusconi has announced his intention to revive the
long-talked-about bridge over the Strait of Messina as a major
public works project to create jobs and improve Sicily's
infrastructure. Although polls indicate that the project enjoys

NAPLES 00000069 005.2 OF 005


widespread support both in Calabria and Sicily, there is
enormous concern that the contracts and sub-contracts will end
up enriching the Mafias on both sides of the Strait. The
prefect of Reggio Calabria recently told the CG that the bidding
process would have to be "armored," but that it could be kept
perfectly clean. However, the prefect of Messina acknowledged
that the bridge, which is supposed to link "insular" Sicily to
the "developed" mainland, could end up having the
counter-productive effect of bringing Sicily, which has
comparatively done a better job of tackling organized crime than
Calabria, physically and psychologically closer to the
`Ndrangheta, Europe's most dangerous organized crime syndicate.
Given the endless delays which have plagued construction of the
Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway, still unfinished after several
decades, the bridge over the Strait is not going to be
constructed anytime soon, and will serve little purpose without
massive investments in road and rail infrastructure in both
Sicily and Calabria, both of which are substandard.

12. (C) Comment: The law enforcement success in recent years
against the Cosa Nostra has been crucial to Sicily's undeniable
progress. Twenty years ago, politicians would never have dared
stand up to the Mafia -- their chances of being assassinated
would have been far greater than their chances of being elected.
The ability of anti-Mafia activists to open "extortion-free"
businesses in Sicily and the existence of a public debate over
how to defeat organized crime are clear signs that Sicilian
society is changing. The situation has improved, but it is
evident that the Cosa Nostra is far from defeated, and in places
such as Trapani still has a stranglehold on the local society.
In addition to organized crime, Sicily suffers from the same
problems as the rest of Italy's South: bad government, crooked
politicians, relatively little industry, and a brain drain as
university graduates leave to seek employment in greener
pastures. Sicily has made progress in many ways in recent
years, but the change is plainly more of an evolution than a
revolution. All in all, we tend to side with the optimists, and
believe that it is in USG interest to actively support civil
society initiatives against organized crime and to press the GOI
to expand funding for anti-Mafia investigations and prosecutions.
TRUHN