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Mafioso Bernardo Provenzano Captured
by Roberto Paglia

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Bernardo Provenzano in captivity.Tuesday, 11 April 2006 will become infamous for two things. It was the day that Italy's right-centre government, with Silvio Berlusconi at the helm (serving longer than any other prime minister in post-war history), was marginally defeated by a shaky leftist coalition, and it was the day that Bernardo Provenzano, supreme head of Sicily's Mafia, was finally captured following forty-three years evading police "underground" in Italy, France and elsewhere. He was captured in Sicily, just a few miles from Corleone, centre of his clan's power. The "boss of bosses" has moved frequently --almost constantly-- over the years, maintaining contact with his underlings through the use of scribbled notes. He reached his place at the pinnacle of Sicilian organised crime only in 1993, following the capture of Salvatore "Totò" Riina.

The eccentric and elusive Provenzano was found in a rural shack (shown here) furnished simply, with access to satellite television, though Provenzano shunned the use of cellular telephones and other communication methods which might have permitted the police to trace him. Still, widespread speculation suggests that the authorities knew his whereabouts for many years, and that people in Corleone saw him around town on occasion.

Provenzano's invisibility earned him the nickname "The Ghost of Corleone," and he was known as "The Tractor" for his ruthless methods, but just how powerful was this 73 year-old man?

Apart from murder, long the Mafia's trademark, Bernardo Provenzano seems to have been involved with up to fifteen percent of the publicly-bid building and civil construction projects in western Sicily. Most of the island's clans (based more on geography than on family ties) answered to him only indirectly, and some of the notes confiscated in his lair mention the names of people not yet investigated by police, as well as politicians. None of this is particularly surprising, however.

During Provenzano's reign the Mafia has more efficiently infiltrated politics and public building (and restoration) while decreasing its involvement in narcotics Hideout outside Corleone.trafficking and extortion, though these activities remain an important source of its revenue. (As we recently reported in "White Mafia" the organisation has even entered the health care field.) Nevertheless, Provenzano and his ilk rarely live in the luxury one might expect of such wealthy criminals. Their wives and children are rarely very exceptional people; Provenzano's family has been under surveillance for years, with members operating a small (legitimate) business and studying for university degrees. These facts are known to many Sicilians. Despite the many cases of children (daughters as well as sons) following in their fathers' footsteps, some children of Mafiosi pursue legitimate professions that are not criminal.

The organisation never sleeps. Entrepreneur Libero Grassi and judge Giovanni Falcone were killed by Provenzano's comrades-in-crime, and Bernardo himself has been tried and convicted (in absentia) for two murders. Organised crime (the Mafia) and political corruption (its close cousin) are the most serious social problems confronting Sicily today, largely responsible for the island's poor economy (and the virtual lack of industry) and the resulting unemployment. If the Mafia's influence on the Sicilian economy is difficult to overlook, its effects are impossible to escape.

The Mafia is nothing if not versatile. It inevitably survives, and it is very probable that a new leader has already been appointed by the Cupola (Sicily's Mafia commission). A new generation of technically sophisticated heirs will take the place of Provenzano and Riina, who themselves were never more than mediocrities even by Mafia standards; they simply happened to step into a power vacuum. DNA will identify them as it did Provenzano.

There will, of course, be another Bernardo Provenzano, and we'll soon learn his name, perhaps following a bloody Mafia war. The organisation lives.

About the Author: Roberto Paglia has written several articles for this publication relating to social topics.

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© 2006 Roberto Paglia