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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More