GIULIO ANDREOTTI: THE DIVINE PERFORMER OF ITALIAN POLITICS

INTRODUCTION

Giulio Andreotti in an uncharacteristic informal pose at the top of a Roman rooftop

Most people associate Il Divo with the multi-national classical crossover vocal group. Il Divo is Italian for “divine performer”. The term “divo” is often associated with notable people in cultural professions. The term is also linked with Italian politician and statesman Giulio Andreotti. Many consider Andreotti a true divine performer in Italian politics because he has held numerous ministerial positions in the last 40 years. There’s a bit of irony in the religious aspect of the nickname due to the fact that Andreotti was the leader of the Right-Wing of Christian Democracy party for decades and was a devout catholic. This period of Italian history is known as the First Republic. This era lasted until the 1992 Tangentopoli corruption scandal which completely shook up the Italian electoral and political system. This scandal also took away most of Andreotti’s political power. An extremely polarizing character, Andreotti has been praised and criticized in equal measure. He has been applauded for mediating political and social conflicts, contributing to transforming a poor country into the world’s fifth-largest economy. At the same time, Andreotti was accused of colluding with Cosa Nostra and was prosecuted several times for this. Nobody has summarized his alleged involvement in major Italian events and even conspiracies better than him: “Apart from the Punic Wars, for which I was too young, I have been blamed for everything that’s happened in Italy.” Andreotti also had a huge impact on Italian culture. He is mentioned in songs, theatre performances, movies and parodies. He was given malicious nicknames, including: ‘Belzebu’, ‘Black Pope’. He was also called ‘Hunchback’ due to his malformed spine and was often portrayed as a shady looking dwarf lurking in the background. This was a bit ironic because he was tall. Andreotti reacted to parodies with contained amusement and was well known for his very intelligent sense of humour filled with quotes. No piece of culture has better presented Andreotti’s impact in Italian History than the 2008 masterpiece Il Divo by Paolo Sorrentino, in which Andreotti was portrayed by Toni Servillo. This movie showed Andreotti to be a calculating, silent and unsympathetic figure whose closest political allies and criticisers occasionally met untimely and unnatural deaths. At first viewing, Andreotti got very angry. Later he joked:

“I’m happy for the producer. But I would be even happier if I had a share of the takings.” 

BIOGRAPHY

The divine performer born on January 14th 1919 in Rome, the youngest of three children. His father was a teacher and he died when Andreotti was two. A few years later, his older sister died. Andreotti performed divinely in his studies and graduated in Law with a perfect score. After graduating he worked at a tax office while a member of the Catholic Federation of University Students, the only non-fascist youth organisation permitted by the regime. In the late 30s, he met future Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi. Italy became a republic in 1946. Andreotti was elected to the Constituent Assembly, which had the task of writing the Constitution. During this era, Andreotti became a close advisor and assistant for his mentor De Gasperi. The two were completely opposite. According to one famous story, the two used to go to church and while De Gasperi spoke to God, Andreotti spoke to the priests. Andreotti’s intelligent and humoristic reply to this claim was: “The priests vote, God doesn’t”.

His first government assignment was that of the Secretary of the Council of Ministers in which he held a considerable amount of responsibilities. One of which was his appointment in charge of the national entertainment sector. His famous quote on remaking the Italian film industry stated that it required: “Fewer rags, more legs”. This action led the Italian film industry to become the second-largest, behind the USA. In 1954 Andreotti became Minister of Interior and he formed his Corrente (faction) inside the party. The Corrente was a Right-Wing faction which aimed to prevent any collaboration and compromises with the Communist Party, which was the largest of all Communist Parties in the Western world. Afterwards, in the early 60s, he became Minister of the Defence. In 1972 Andreotti became Prime Minister. This would begin an era in which he became “puppet master” of Italy. In foreign policy, Andreotti was a staunch NATO supporter but was able to develop relationships with USSR and Arab countries. In late 70s Italy was suffering from high political tensions between Far Left and Far Right which also escalated in high scale political terrorism. During this era, a historical compromise was proposed by Andreotti’s party, from the Left-Wing faction leader Aldo Moro to Communist Party leader Enrico Berlinguer. This compromise would become a historical coalition government between Christian Democracy and the Communist Party. Despite his anti-communist views, Andreotti was called to lead the first government-supported by Communist Party. The credibility of this government took a heavy blow when, in 1978, Aldo Moro was kidnapped and executed by the Far Left terrorist organisation Red Brigades. Andreotti strongly refused to deal with terrorists. The cabinet was dissolved in June 1979.

In 1983 Andreotti became Minister of Foreign Affairs of socialist Bettino Craxi’s cabinet. The two had personal antagonism lasting for years. Andreotti continued improving diplomacy with both USSR and USA. Despite Craxi’s resignation in 1987, Andreotti remained until 1989, when he was appointed in his third term as Prime Minister. Andreotti’s third term as Prime Minister was tumultuous. Many ministers abandoned their posts and eventually, the whole Socialist Party withdrew from the government. He also had several run-ins with Italian President Francesco Cossiga. In 1990 Andreotti revealed the existence of Gladio which was the codename for a clandestine NATO “stay-behind” operation in Italy during the Cold War. Its purpose was to prepare and implement armed resistance in the event of a Warsaw Pact invasion and conquest. Andreotti was a strong advocate for a European Union and was strongly participating in negotiations to form it, just like De Gasperi before him. In 1992 Salvatore Lima, a Sicilian member of Andreotti’s faction was murdered by Mafia. He was known for being involved with Cosa Nostra and he was said to be the link between Mafia and Andreotti. The murder is said to have been motivated by revenge because magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino ran their high-scale juridical campaign against and the mafia which led to numerous arrests and guilty verdicts. Andreotti resigned as Prime Minister. He was considered a strong candidate to succeed Francesco Cossiga as President of Italy but his candidacy was ruined by criminal allegations and by the murder of Giovanni Falcone. After his third mandate, Andreotti began the hardest part of his life. He was brought to court in 1993 due to Mafia connections. He was accused of making available to Mafia the defence of its interests and agreeing to protect it from the Maxi Trial, which was brought in by magistrates Falcone and Borsellino in exchange for support for him and Lima in elections and assassinations of his enemies. Accusations were mostly based upon statements by former Mafia associates turned State-evidence. One even claimed that Andreotti had exchanged a “kiss of honour” with Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore Riina.  Andreotti replied: “lies and slander, the kiss of Riina, mafia summits, scenes out of a comic horror movie”. Andreotti was also tried in Perugia with Sicilian Mafia boss Gaetano Badalamenti, Massimo Carminati, and others on charges of complicity in the murder of journalist Mino Pecorelli (March 1979).  Andreotti was allegedly afraid that Pecorelli was about to publish information that could have destroyed his career. Local prosecutors from Perugia successfully appealed the acquittal and there was a retrial, which in 2002 convicted Andreotti and sentenced him to 24 years imprisonment. Many failed to understand how the court could convict Andreotti of orchestrating the killing, yet acquit his co-accused, who supposedly had carried out his orders by setting up and committing the murder. Italian Supreme Court definitively acquitted Andreotti in 2003. In his late political career, Andreotti joined the People’s Party of Mino Martinazzoli. In 2001, after the creation of The Daisy, a Centre-Left party, Andreotti joined European Democracy, a minor party. True to his “divine performer” status, Andreotti became the alleged leader of this party. The rest of his life was mostly fulfilled with the Senate.

FAMILY AND PERSONAL LIFE

Andreotti was obsessed with privacy. He married Livia Danese and had two sons and two daughters. Andreotti said the opinion of others was of little consequence to him, and “In any case, a few years from now, no one will remember me.” He died in Rome on 6 May 2013 due to respiratory problems, at the age of 94.

CONCLUSION

I don’t know any politician who has been so polarizing and whose deepest thoughts are still a mystery. While his extremely long tenure in Italian politics and his central role in the history can’t be denied, his life and persona are surrounded by a dark aura. Was he really as corrupt as they are? Did he actually order the murder of a criticising journalist? Was he even an honorary member of the Mafia? We may never know the true extent of his endeavours as a “Black Pope”. The earlier mentioned “Il Divo” implies that he might not have used the greatest method for the greater good of Italy. I’m still puzzled myself about the length of his personal involvement in these deepest secrets. I have however been impressed for many years by his undeniable intelligence in politics and his sense of humour which can be noted from some of his legendary quotes:

“Power wears out those who don’t have it”

“The malice of the good is very dangerous.”

“I love Germany so much that I preferred when there were two.

”I think the best thing is not to think about death, but you mustn’t think about being immortal, either.”

“In my opinion Europe is a movement that can’t expect to be perfect straight away, but it should seek to harness the skills of everyone and get the best out of everything at the same time as it corrects the faults. It’s not easy, but we have to do it, it’s a moral obligation for the future generations to get this right, and not go astray.”

“You sin in thinking bad about people, but, often, you guess right.”

“The judges are a big problem. Law is equal for everyone, except for them.”

As a last tribute I would like to quote my personal story of Andreotti as it was told in an interview with acclaimed journalist Oriana Fallaci:

Suffering from chronic migraines since being a teenager and also diagnosed with anaemia and organic deterioration, Andreotti survived and lived to tell the end of the story with his ever-present way of portraying dark irony: “After the diagnosis of and the estimation of living for six months, I simply walked out of the doctor’s office. When I became the Minister of Defence some 15 years later, I tried to call the doctor to tell him I was still alive but they had died himself in the meantime…

This for me was Giulio Andreotti. A man who was never supposed to be a “divine performer” but which became nonetheless. I believe that almost everybody strongly disagrees with Andreotti’s personal claim that he will be forgotten. How can one forget a person with such an impact on history Intelligent? Beyond general comprehension. Controversial? Beyond general comprehension. Divine performer? Beyond general comprehension.

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