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Entries in Santa Maria del Bosco (1)

Friday
Apr222011

Whacking the Hive

by Bluto Ray

At a time when the Cosa Nostra enjoyed its greatest power--the late 1970s and early 1980s--the word “Mafia” was nowhere to be found in the Italian criminal code. Many politicians were still denying the existence of organized crime even as their colleagues were being systematically murdered. An independent-minded politician named Pio La Torre became the Mafia’s biggest enemy after he proposed a series of harsh new laws. He won in the end, even if he didn’t survive to see them enacted.

Pio La Torre

La Torre’s biography would fit into a behaviorist’s thesis that similar environmental conditions produce like personalities. Like many other young Sicilian men who embraced political activism in the postwar years, he was of hard-luck peasant stock that eked by under Mafia exploitation. He stepped in to replace the murdered Placido Rizzotto in the Corleone land reform movement, surviving at a time when dozens of other leftist leaders fell to the assassin’s bullet.

Born of illiterate parents in 1927, La Torre’s father, a former soldier, spent most of each year away from home working the citrus orchards outside of Palermo. His mother had higher hopes for young Pio and his four siblings, imploring them to get an education “so you won’t be forced to labor and die of hunger.” After receiving a law degree from the University of Palermo, he joined the Communist Youth Brigade in 1945 and took to penning hard-hitting newspaper editorials attacking the Mafia.

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