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Entries in Giuseppe Russo (4)


Justice Decried: An Innocent Sicilian Wants Compensation for a Stolen Life

Giuseppe Gulotta was among a group of teens who confessed under torture to murder. He was locked away for 22 years.

by Carl Russo

Giuseppe GulottaON THE FRIGID morning of January 26, 1976, a politician and his police escort were driving along the shoreline road of Alcamo Marina, Sicily, when something caught the eye of a bodyguard: the door of the local carabiniere barracks stood wide open. Stopping to investigate, the policemen stepped inside and found two dead soldiers, full of bullets, sprawled on the floor in a puddle of their own blood.

The victims, Lance Corporal Salvatore Falcetta and officer Carmine Apuzzo, apparently had been attacked in their sleep and robbed of their service arms and uniforms. Later that day, a newspaper office was contacted by an anonymous caller, who said, “The people and the workers bring justice to all the slaves and ranking carabinieri who defend the bourgeois state.” Colonel Giuseppe Russo of Ficuzza organized a manhunt to find the extreme-left terrorists responsible for the murders.

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Valley of Bones

by Bluto Ray

The Occupy Wall Street meme of late 2011 found a vociferous welcome in Sicily last January as workers occupied highways and byways for five long days. The mass blockade—a general strike of truckers, farmers, craftsmen, shepherds, breeders, and students—was devised to cause maximum disturbance to island commerce. The Pitchforks ("i Forconi"), as the protesters call themselves, pitched a fit over high fuel prices, road tolls, and income taxes. The most bilious rage was reserved for Mario Monti, the interim prime minister of Italy, who seeks to enforce austerity with a whack of his Goldman Sachs tentacle.

Placido RizzottoJust as the occasional stabbing at an American OWS encampment is met with howls of conservatives eager to paint the 99-Percenters as violent anarchists, the Pitchforks have faced an image problem with the arrest of alleged Mafia-connected protesters. The regional president of the country’s largest trade and services association, Confindustria, was quick to cast aspersions on the movement:


"We have evidence that, in many demonstrations of blockades that are creating such difficulty in Sicily, there were proponents of the Mafia. This doesn't mean that the Mafia is inside the demonstrations, but we are worried about a real uneasiness in the people of the island; that things are controlled by persons without credibility and with dubious pasts, by infiltrations of organized crime and by other phenomena that only end up increasing a general rebelliousness that doesn't resolve problems."


Click to see the locationsGiven that much of Sicilian commerce, notably trucking and the building trades, is yoked by the Mafia, it is no stretch to imagine that crime bosses would embrace any pushback to economic change. Political parties from left to right, many standing to lose power with Monti’s sledgehammer economics, have tossed in their support of the strikes. But, in fact, the rank-and-file Pitchforks have loudly condemned the gridlocked policies of all corrupt elites—elected or mafiosi.

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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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Hit and Miss

by Bluto Ray

In the mid-1980s, the “excellent cadavers” were starting to pile up. Investigative judge Carlo Palermo had already lost two distinguished colleagues to Mafia assassins: Colonel Giuseppe Russo and Judge Giangiacomo Montalto. Palermo took on the cartels while stationed in the northern Italian city of Trento. There he uncovered a vast international drug and arms operation that sparked a bribery scandal in Parliament.

Barbara Rizzo AstaCertain higher powers apparently found the dedicated servant to be a little too efficient: all of his investigations were ordered closed. Frustrated, Palermo transferred to the Sicilian port city of Trapani to take the place of the murdered Judge Montalto.

Certainly nobody else wanted the job in the Mafia infested region. In those days, the hilly northwest region of the island hid a number of factories busily refining Turkish heroin for the American market. The 38-year-old judge arrived with a list of thirty or so mafiosi he had connected to trafficking and other crimes. It took only two weeks for the Mafia to throw him a welcoming party.

On the morning of April 2, 1985, Judge Palermo was being whisked down the coastal highway from a military base to his Trapani office in an armored Fiat 132. Following close behind were his bodyguards in an unprotected Fiat Ritmo. Waiting for the tiny entourage was a Volkswagen Golf parked by the side of the road in the beach town of Pizzolungo. It was empty except for the nearly fifty pounds of dynamite inside set to detonate by remote control.

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