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Sunday
Nov272011

A Deadly Peace

by Bluto Ray

For many years, Caccamo was a model city of the Mafia. The charming mountain village east of Palermo was run with the kind of criminal efficiency that only an iron-fisted boss can demand. Despite the thirty seats occupied by the City Council’s deputies, the one that counted was unelected: an easy-chair reserved for Don Peppino Panzeca.

Mico GeraciIn the mid-twentieth century, all of Caccamo’s public moneys ran through Don Peppino’s fingers, as did the town’s permit process. Those wishing to run for office or buy land or open a shop sought his approval. He settled marital disputes and baptized babies by no one’s authority but his own. Mafia murders were what happened far away from his placid dominion.

A succession of crime bosses continued to enforce the peace in Caccamo, leading to Nino Giuffrè, a former professor at the town’s technical school who joined the Mafia in 1980. Giuffrè was quickly befriended by the powerful capo Bernardo Provenzano, a civilized Dr. Jeckyll from Corleone at odds with his Hyde-like partner, Totò Riina.

Giuffrè was soon given a seat on the Mafia Commission where he and Provenzano represented the pacifist wing in discreet opposition to Riina’s sanguinary modus. After Riina’s arrest, Giuffrè became Provenzano’s right-hand “Manuzza,” so nicknamed for his deformed hand.

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Friday
Oct142011

The Second Coming of Junior

by Bluto Ray

Those cultured hooligans at the UK zine Sabotage Times have reprinted another piece from this blog—I’ve always wanted to work with Brando!

Which brings me to the biggest news for Mafia watchers this month: the release of convicted hood Giuseppe Salvatore Riina from prison. “Salvuccio” (“Bad Sal”), a.k.a. “Riina Junior,” is the son of a true-to-life godfather from Corleone, Totò Riina, who will stay in prison forever.

Giuseppe Salvatore "Salvuccio" RiinaIt was the second time the paparazzi had staked out the prison gate waiting for Salvuccio's liberation. In January 2008 he was let out early, six years into an eight-year sentence, while the court deliberated over his case. The image of the junior boss emerging from the maximum security fortress in a snow-white puffer vest and pink shirtsleeves had a creepily incongruous Milan Fashion Week vibe. At the end of the catwalk he stepped into an idling black Mercedes to reunite with the notorious first lady of the Cosa Nostra, Ninetta Bagarella, a.k.a. “Mamma.”

The European press ate it up, but the citizens of Corleone—the convict’s old neighbors—were appalled to have him back. (“He’s socially dangerous!” said the mayor.) Within a year, Salvuccio was ordered to finish his sentence for Mafia-related crimes; back to jail he went.

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Thursday
Sep222011

Patricide

by Bluto Ray

“Don Puglisi would not be proud of the Sicily of today, a Sicily that doesn't show more indignation,” declared a conservative politician last week at a gathering to commemorate a much loved priest. “The truth is that the Sicily of today isn’t worthy of the martyrs who fought the Mafia.” He berated the island’s young people as “dormant” and “embarrassing.”

Don Giuseppe PuglisiBut the politico’s words rang hollow later that evening as hundreds of teens took to the streets—along with parents, grandparents and teachers—in a torchlight procession to the spot where the cleric was murdered for his opposition to the Mafia.

The name of Father Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi will be forever associated with Brancaccio, a beat-up fringe of Palermo whose impoverished denizens are doubly cursed by urban decay and Cosa Nostra crossfire. Wedged between cliff and sea, railroad and freeway, smoggy Brancaccio sits in a historic battle zone of mafiosi.

Fearsome hoods like Michele “The Pope” Greco, Pietro “Little Mister” Aglieri and Stefano “The Falcon” Bontade trafficked and killed from Ciaculli to the south to Santa Maria del Gesù to the west. The atmosphere of violence and crime led the Sicilian-born Puglisi to take over the godforsaken parish in 1990, turning down plum assignments in richer neighborhoods despite his illustrious thirty-year career.

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Thursday
Sep152011

Ripping Rerun

by Bluto Ray

Michele GrecoI’m pleased to report that the British features syndicate Sabotage Times has reprinted an older blog post at their racy online journal. Retitled “Inside The Sicilian Mafia’s Drug Empire,” the article recounts the bloody doings in the citrus orchards of Ciaculli, Sicily, overseen by Mafia chiefs Michele “The Pope” Greco and Totò Riina.

To follow up on the article’s thread about The Pope’s filmmaking son, Giuseppe Greco, a.k.a. Giorgio Castellani, I’ve translated this note from a curated program of films featuring the popular comic actors Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia, both Palermo natives:

 

Crema, cioccolata e...paprika, [directed] by Michele Massimo Tarantini, is the absolute worst film in which the duo played marginal roles. The protagonists of this sluggish sex comedy are Barbara Bouchet and Massimo Montagnani, but the problem is the presence of the son of Mafia boss Michele Greco that brought judicial troubles upon Franco Franchi. In 1989, Franchi and [actor Mario] Merola were accused of being mafiosi by an informer and suspected of associating with members of the Greco family. The prosecutions were shelved, but the doubts destroyed Franchi morally and physically, and he became gravely ill. He died on December 11, 1992, after appearing in the last episode of [the TV variety show] 'Avanspettacolo' to a moving round of applause.”

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Friday
Aug262011

Out of the Woods

by Bluto Ray

Of all the ugly monuments dedicated to Mafia victims—and there are many ill-conceived tributes that dot Sicily—perhaps the homliest is found in the most beautiful of settings: the mountain hamlet of Ficuzza. The lush forests of Ferdinand III’s royal hunting grounds—now a nature preserve—open onto a grassy piazza dominated by the gold-hued palace built by the Bourbon “King of Two Sicilies.” Bordering the eastern edge of the square are the romantic two-hundred-year-old arcades where the Lieutenant Colonel of the Carabinieri, Guiseppe Russo, was gunned down in 1977, a fact made blunt by a concrete stub that bears his name.

Colonel Giuseppe RussoColonel Russo, a native of Calabria, kept his family in a little house on the piazza of lovely Ficuzza. It was a refuge from the hazards of his career as the commander of the Mafia unit in smog-shrouded Palermo. But Ficuzza is located a scant seven miles from the city of Corleone and was, during Russo’s residency, on the turf of local crime bosses Totò Riina and Bernard Provenzano. Russo had a history with these Corleonesi, having investigated their kidnappings and infiltration into public works. He even discovered Riina’s wedding invitation and a honeymoon photo in an apartment used by his wife, Ninetta.

The threats made to Russo by the Corleonesi came with the territory. His superior, General Dalla Chiesa, a marked man himself, mounted a symbolic counteroffensive by walking the streets of Corleone flanked by Russo in broad daylight. But as the bosses kept an eye on Russo, he kept tabs on them.

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Saturday
Aug062011

Buon Ferragosto!

Mafia Exposed will be on vacation for a few weeks. Regretfully, comments left by readers will not be published until my return.

Updates to the Cosa Nostra News Blitz should resume around August 18, and a new article will be posted by the end of the month.

Thanks for your patience,
Bluto Ray


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