by Carl Russo
Earlier this year, a court prosecutor found an old cassette in a box she hadn’t opened since her college days of the early 1980s. The tape contains the voice of a lecturer, tinged with a rural Sicilian accent, warning a group of students about drugs. His speech was not a harangue by an abstinence zealot but a dire warning about Mafia hegemony. The speaker was Rocco Chinnici, one of the world’s foremost experts of organized crime:
The greatest danger there is today is resignation in the tendency to view the Mafia as an unavoidable evil in our time. We need to react. We need to make young people in particular understand that the Mafia, with its manufacture and sale of drugs, has exceeded itself in the criminal power that has always been its trademark. . . . There’s a need for citizen responsibility. . . . In a city like Palermo, so much is permeated by the Mafia. And the overwhelming majority, the silent ones, the fearful, are really on the judge’s side when he does his duty.
Each year thousands of Italians march in tribute to a pair of beloved judges martyred by the Mafia in the 1990s, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Politicians make speeches and dedicate streets in their honor. Schoolchildren lay wreathes on their statues. But often overlooked is the man who hand-picked these brilliant men to work in his anti-Mafia pool: Chief Prosecutor Chinnici, who speaks from beyond the grave on that cheap cassette recorded four months before his murder, in 1983.