The murder of the famous judge on May 23, 1992 shook Italy and marked a turning point in the fight against Cosa Nostra
It was May 8 or 9, 1992, Maria does not remember the precise day very well, but she does remember the words he told her when his brother, Judge Giovanni Falcone, went to visit him: «We must act quickly against the mafia because democracy is in danger in our country». On May 23, two weeks after that gloomy premonition, Falcone himself, a symbol of the fight against organized crime in Italy, was assassinated in an attack by the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, in which his wife, also a magistrate, also perished. Francesca Morvillo, and three of the agents of her escort. “The first episode of the attacks against our democracy was going to be the massacre of my brother, which was followed shortly after by that of his partner, Judge Paolo Borsellino,” says María Falcone, who today chairs the foundation that bears her name, responsible for guarding his memory.
That action with which the mafiosi blew up a section of the highway between Palermo and the Punta Raisi airport caused an earthquake in Italian society and marked a turning point in the fight against Cosa Nostra. Three decades later, various events remember Falcone these days in Italy, where he is considered a kind of “lay martyr” for his courage and ability to revolutionize the way of fighting organized crime, still today the great national cancer.
«With Falcone Italia was first able to defeat Cosa Nostra and then to put the other mafias in difficulty. It marked a historic moment in which Justice defeated the mafias while the State made anti-mafia laws that are still among the best in the world today, “explains French journalist Marcelle Padovani, author with Falcone of the book ‘Things of Cosa Nostra ‘, a reference work for which he conducted a series of interviews with the magistrate.
Padovani rejects the label of ‘saint’ or ‘hero’ for Falcone and considers him a «servant of the State, but not of an imaginary State that could be fantastic, but of the one that existed when he lived. That was the extraordinary strength of him ». His ability to modernize the bases of the fight against organized crime was verified by the reporter when she was invited to an act of the European Parliament in memory of Falcone: «The European Parliament itself praised his figure and set as an example to be followed by all member countries the anti-mafia legislation that Italy carried out in those years».
Organized crime blew up a section of the highway between Palermo and the airport
The magistrate believed that it was necessary to act soon because democracy was in danger«
These laws were largely the result of the reflections of this magistrate from Palermo and of a reserved character who died at the age of 53. “He managed to build the world of the anti-mafia,” says Padovani. Falcone’s sister agrees that his great contribution was that “he invented a fight against the mafia starting from the base”, with “very careful” investigations that followed “dirty money” and led to the appearance of collaborators of Justice among the members of the Cosa Nostra clans. The creation of the National Antimafia Directorate was also the fruit of his intuition, still today the most important organization in the fight against organized crime in Italy and in which he was unable to disembark as he was assassinated earlier.
Despite the shadows that have surrounded the attack that ended his life, even thicker in the case of Borsellino’s death 57 days later, Padovani does not believe that a deviant part of the State was behind Falcone’s death. “I’m a little perplexed by the theories of alleged plots. There was an extraordinary trial against Falcone’s killers. They arrested and sentenced everyone », he recalls. The last instigator of the murder was Salvatore ‘Totò’ Riina, ‘capo dei capi’ of Cosa Nostra, responsible for the bloodiest stage of the Sicilian mafia and who would be arrested the following year. Riina died in 2017 in the special area for inmates of a Parma hospital after spending 24 years in ’41 bis’, the harsh prison regime contemplated for the heads of mafia clans, especially loved by Falcone.
The imprint left by the murder of the judge in Sicilian society is palpable three decades later in people like Dario Riccobono. He was a kid when the crime took place, which caught him very close, since he lived with his family in Capaci, the town where the attack took place. “He was our 9/11. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t remember what they were doing on May 23, 1992. It shook us all and made people demonstrate in the streets, fed up with the violence,” explains Ricobbono, who is part of the Addiopizzo collective, a movement of rejection of the payment of the ‘pizzo’, the tax charged by the gangsters. “We all feel some guilt that day and when Borsellino was later killed. They were normal people. They were not heroes, but we were the cowards. After the massacre, people understood which side they had to be on and that they had to take sides.
Thus, one of Falcone’s ambitions became a reality, the creation of a popular rejection movement against organized crime because, as he said, “the judiciary alone cannot end the mafia.” The moment in which another of his most famous quotes is fulfilled is not yet on the horizon: «The mafia is not invincible. It is a human event and, like all human events, it has a beginning and will also have an end.
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