News / Europe

Giulio Andreotti, 7-Times Italian Prime Minister, Dies

Journalists gather outside the home of late Italian Senator Giulio Andreotti in Rome, May 6, 2013. Giulio Andreotti, Italy's former seven-time premier, has died at age 94.
Journalists gather outside the home of late Italian Senator Giulio Andreotti in Rome, May 6, 2013. Giulio Andreotti, Italy's former seven-time premier, has died at age 94.
Reuters
Giulio Andreotti (C), Italian life senator, leaves after a meeting at the Vatican, Nov. 12, 2009.Giulio Andreotti (C), Italian life senator, leaves after a meeting at the Vatican, Nov. 12, 2009.
x
Giulio Andreotti (C), Italian life senator, leaves after a meeting at the Vatican, Nov. 12, 2009.
Giulio Andreotti (C), Italian life senator, leaves after a meeting at the Vatican, Nov. 12, 2009.
Giulio Andreotti, who served as  Italian prime minister seven times and whose name was synonymous with political survival and cunning in the land that gave the world Machiavelli, died on Monday at the age of 94.

Andreotti, who for more than half a century was known as "Mr. Italy'' because of the many offices he held, died at home, family sources said. He had suffered from respiratory problems for years and had been in hospital several times.

A leading member of the defunct Christian Democrat party which dominated Italian politics for almost fifty years after World War II, Andreotti was a lawmaker in every Italian parliament since 1945. He was made a senator for life in 1991.

He was a complex figure who embodied the contradictions and intrigues of Italy's often shady politics.

His enemies called him Beelzebub but he was deeply religious and took communion from popes. He was accused and acquitted both of being a member of the mafia and of ordering the murder of a muck-raking journalist.

His supporters said he served his country like few others, helping transform Italy from a war-devastated agricultural backwater to a leading industrial power in the space of a generation.

But many Italians believed he was the quintessential back-room wheeler-dealer, overseeing a political system riddled with cronyism and corruption.

He held nearly every political post in Italy short of the presidency. His leadership of seven post-war governments was beaten only by his mentor, Alcide De Gaspari, who led eight.

At the end of a sensational trial and two appeals, Andreotti was cleared in 2004 of charges that he had been a member of the mafia and had protected the mob in the corridors of power.

However, Italy's highest court said he had ties until 1980 with mafia gangsters, which were covered by the statute of limitations.
        
The most shocking allegation was that he once exchanged a kiss of respect with "boss of bosses'' Salvatore "Toto'' Riina, then Italy's most wanted man and now in jail.

Andreotti denounced the accusations, based on testimony from mafia turncoats, and in the end, the courts believed him.

He embodied Italy's so-called first republic, dominated by the Christian Democrats and a bewildering string of "revolving door'' governments.
        
Their eternal political rivalry with the Communist Party, the largest in the West at that time, was sharpened by the Cold War and American fears of a communist takeover, which also fueled violent political conflict between right and left.

The so-called years of lead in the 1970s culminated in the far-left Red Brigades kidnap and murder of Christian Democrat president Aldo Moro when Andreotti was prime minister in 1978.

Bribery scandal

But the party was swept away by a huge bribery scandal in 1992, together with much of the old order, although corruption is now said to be worse than ever and Italy is in a renewed period of political instability which has worsened a deep economic recession.

A fervent Catholic who went to Mass every morning, Italians called him the "the eternal Giulio'' because of his political longevity and his mastery of intrigue.
        
He was the subject of more than 20 parliamentary investigations on suspicion of under-the-counter dealings, ranging from corruption to links with shady financiers.

On every occasion he was cleared and the investigations did not dent his power with voters in Rome, his constituency.

"Apart from the Punic Wars, for which I was too young, I have been blamed for everything,'' he once said in one of his famous, cutting quips.
        `
"Faith helps me a lot," Andreotti told Reuters during one of trials in 2002.

"The justice that counts is that which will be carried out in the next world. I will not have a place of honor in the next world because I too have been a moderate sinner in my life, but I certainly have not committed sins of mafia or sins of murder.''
        
A bespectacled, stooping figure with protruding ears, he was meat and drink for two generations of editorial cartoonists.
        
He said his appetite for work was helped by insomnia but detractors said it stemmed from a lust for power.
        
"Power wears out those who don't have it," he once said in a famous retort.

As a life senator Andreotti attended parliament regularly until recently when his health failed.

Andreotti, who was married with four children, got his first taste of power in May 1947 when he was named Cabinet secretary.

His introduction to politics came when he went to the Vatican library and asked for an obscure book on the military power of the Vatican in the 19th century.

"Have you nothing better to do?'' grumbled the librarian, who turned out to be De Gasperi, the future Christian Democrat leader and prime minister. Andreotti became De Gasperi's personal assistant and never looked back.

He helped write Italy's new constitution after World War II and assumed his first cabinet post, as interior minister, in 1954.

Before his health failed, he worked though most of the night, slept only a few hours and spent the rest of the time before dawn reading files and writing books.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid