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Entries in Monreale (3)

Saturday
Jun302012

Road Rage

by Bluto Ray

Captain Mario D’Aleo bore a grudge and everyone knew it. The head of the carabiniere unit in Monreale, near Palermo, spent the better part of his working days nosing around the village of San Giuseppe Jato. The hillside township with its surrounding pastures and unnamed backroads kept Mafia secrets tucked safely out of view. The greatest secret was the one the captain yearned to know most: the whereabouts of Bernardo Brusca, the area’s domineering crime boss.

Captain Mario D'AleoWhenever D’Aleo crossed paths with a member of the Brusca family, he nabbed him. Bernardo’s son Giovanni bore the brunt of the officer’s diligence; he was thrown into the barracks on more than one occasion to be questioned about the company he kept or the circumstances of a car set ablaze. “Be careful, because you insist on persecuting our family too much,” warned Giovanni’s aged grandfather, Emanuele. D’Aleo knew a threat when he heard one.

Captain D’Aleo was newly appointed to lead the Monreale station, a Roman-born careerist ten years on the job yet still in his twenties. He had stepped into the boots of Captain Emanuele Basile, assassinated by the Mafia in 1980, and, without missing a beat, continued his predecessor’s vigorous investigation of the Brusca family’s shady interests. Like Basile before him, the impertinent D'Aleo was a threat to the Bruscas, but the family’s high position on the Mafia’s company chart guaranteed them a hearing by the Commission on the matter.

Click to see the photosLike many decisions deliberated by the Mafia Commission—controlled at the time by the violence-prone capo from Corleone, Totò Riina—the Bruscas’ cop problem would end in a death sentence. In the early 1980s, Riina’s murderous juggernaut was claiming ever more victims; police officers fell like tin soldiers.

Despite the obvious danger, D’Aleo trudged on, collaborating with Lance Corporal Giuseppe Bommarito. Bommarito was a Sicilian native in his thirties who had previously worked alongside Captain Basile until his superior met his untimely death. A few years later, D’Aleo and Bommarito, patrolling the same treacherous beat, surprised a group of Mafia suspects in meeting. The presence of Monreale boss Salvatore Damiani, a close associate of Bernardo Brusca, led the officers to believe that a series of unsolved murders in the area—including that of Captain Basile—were traceable to these men. But the investigation came to an abrupt halt.

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Monday
Jul112011

Night Terrors

by Bluto Ray

Sixty-four years have passed since the May Day massacre at Portella della Ginestra, yet the events of that dark moment in Sicily’s history remain mired in confusion. Were the cold-blooded murders of eleven men, women and children at a rural labor festival committed by the bandit Salvatore Giuliano, by the Mafia, or by some other dark entity? And were high-placed political figures pulling the strings? The story is meat for a thousand conspiracy theorists.*

Salvatore GiuilianoGiuliano claimed that he had sent a squadron of hired men to Portella to kidnap his political nemesis, Girolamo Li Causi, the communist leader who opposed separatism. (The bandit king had been recently recruited by a monarchist-backed group that sought the island’s annexation by the US.) But as Li Causi had been a no-show, his men called off the abduction and left Portella before the killing began, according to Giuliano.

In the aftermath of that fateful holiday of 1947, the police rounded up dozens of Mafia suspects, only to release them for their uncannily airtight alibis. Suspicions, at any rate, were starting to fall on Guiliano after two of his henchmen were arrested; each admitted some knowledge of the slaughter. Several eyewitnesses reported seeing the outlaws--including Giuliano--in the vicinity. The police found it politically convenient to pin the blame on the bandits. Some of the inspectors, however, smelled the influence of untouchable Mafia bosses.

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Sunday
Mar202011

Mafia Party

by Bluto Ray

A devil’s triangle of Church, State and Mafia existed in Camporeale, a rural town outside Palermo, founded, as the name implies, on old royal grounds. The territory’s capomafia, Vanni Sacco, slipped back into power with Sicily’s political reshuffle following the Second World War. Though lacking blue blood, the shrewd and haughty boss descended from an old elite family of the area. Sacco kept a despotic grip on the affairs of Camporeale with the frequent help of the regional archbishop, Ernesto Eugenio Filippi, a scheming mafioso in his own right.

Calogero CangelosiA naive young parish priest named Vincenzo Ferranti learned a difficult lesson about the hidden power structure of his diocese. Entrusted with the souls of Camporeale’s eight thousand citizens, he railed against Sacco from the pulpit. The public denunciations appeared to be political: Father Ferranti opposed anyone outside the Christian Democratic party, and Sacco was a Liberal. But the priest was trying to block Mafia influence in his church. For this sin, the door of the rectory was shot up by submachine guns as he lay in bed inside.

Terrified, Ferranti fled with a young supporter to the gilded palace of Archbishop Filippi in Monreale. After calming the priest, Monsignor Filippi arranged a lunch with Sacco, brokering a truce with generous terms for the boss. Before long, a crowd was summoned to the piazza of Camporeale by a band playing religious hymns. A convertible automobile drove up the town's main street as in a procession. In it was the fearsome Sacco Vanni; seated next to him was a humiliated and chastened Father Ferranti. In accordance with the agreement, the new church bell was christened with the name of Sacco’s daughter, Giovanna.

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