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Battisti: The Italo-Brazilian Imbroglio over Shadows of the Past

Brazil and Italy will meet in a football game today in London. The friendly match is far from having the importance of other disputes in the past, world cup decisions included, but the mood built around the game has set the national blogospheres on fire — see Global Voices.

After weeks of cross-Atlantic brouhaha, some bloggers are starting to wonder how and why the case has gone so far. Is the Brazilian Government's decision to grant political refugee status to Italian felon Cesare Battisti really worth of such attention?

What elements could be at play to bring forth those remarkable outcomes, such as the minute of silence from the Ministers of European Parliament in a session last week in honor of Battisti's alleged victims from 30 years ago, or the farewell of an Italian-born journalism icon in Brazil over the heated national debate on the case, and also Italy's recall of their Ambassador in Brasilia? The Italian government went as far as threatening to call off the friendly game, leading Brazilians to sense a blow out of proportion. Berlusconi is the one to blame.

Celeuma injustificada a criada pelo “caso Battisti” e a atitude de bufão tomada pelo governo chefiado por Silvio Berlusconi. Pelo menos aproveitei a chance para estudar sobre o tema antes de me arriscar a escrever algumas linhas. A maioria dos analistas não faz segredo da passionalidade de suas analises e transformaram o caso numa disputa partidária, ou pior, futebolística.
Brasil vs ItáliaDissolvendo No Ar

Gratuitous altercation is the one created by the buffoon government headed by Silvio Berlusconi over the “Battisti case”. At least I took the time to study the subject before I ventured to write a few lines about it. Most analysts are open about the passion on their analysis and transformed the event into a partisan dispute, or worse, a football match.
Brasil vs ItáliaDissolving in the Air

A Itália, hoje, vive o governo histérico de Berlusconi. É o dono da grande rede de televisão italiana, é dono de jornais, é dono de times de futebol. Ou seja, é o dono da Itália. E é nitidamente fascista, xenófobo, racista.

Italy, today, is going through the government of histrionic Berlusconi. He owns the huge Italian TV network, owns newspapers, owns football teams. That is, he is the owner of Italy. And he is clearly fascist, xenophobic, racist.
Berlusconi's Hysteria and the Brazilian SovereignityBlog de Luís Antônio Castagna Maia

The Italian reaction now is very different from last year's, when the French government refused to extradite Marina Petrella, a former Red Brigades terrorist who was informed of the decision at her hospital bed by Carla Bruni herself. This time with Brazil, Ms. Sarkozy had to come out to dismiss any connection with Cesare Batistti, which ended up bringing more spice to the story.

Many blogs mention that the main source of the Italian enrage this time was the terms used by the justice minister Tarso Genro to announce the asylum grant, declaring that Battisti was a victim of political persecution and that his life might be at risk if he were returned to his homeland.

Mais do que a decisão em si, o que provocou a violenta reação do governo italiano foram os termos utilizados pelo ministro da Justiça, Tarso Genro, para negar o pedido de refugio, aceitando as alegações de Battisti, segundo as quais correria risco de vida e de perseguição política caso voltasse à Itália.
Battisti e Rother: a arte dos tiros no péBalaio do Kotscho

More than the decision itself, what provoked the violent reaction of the Italian government were the terms used by the Minister of Justice, Tarso Genro, to deny the Italian request, accepting Battisti's allegations that he would be risking his life, or suffering political persecution if he were to be returned to Italy.
Battisti and Rother: the art of shooting your feetBalaio do Kotscho

Por mais que insista que a decisão do Brasil foi soberana, é sabido que Tarso não consultou o Itamaraty antes de resolver. E enfiou na cara da Itália e do governo do tosquíssimo Silvio ,Berlusconi uma justificativa dura, nada diplomática e desnecessária. A França obviamente desconfia das mesmas possibilidades que afligiram o pimpão ministro da Justiça. Mas preferiu se referir às condições de saúde de Petrella, em vez de criar caso por nada. Diante disso, a mesma Itália recuou. Parece razoável que a mesma decisão soberana que Tarso defende seja acompanhada do tensionamento das relações pela Itália, que viu um ministro de Justiça brasileiro pela primeira vez questionar a justiça dos outros. Molecagem de segunda categoria. Um bom exemplo de como uma decisão justa pode ser prejudicada por quem não sabe respeitar a soberania alheia.
Tarso errou (mesmo) com BatisttiBlog do Savarese

Although we can insist that the Brazilian decision was sovereign, it is known that Tarso did not consult the Foreign Ministry before making his decision. And he threw in the face of Italy and Berlusconi's government some though arguments, not diplomatic and totally unnecessary. France obviously holds the same suspicions that afflicts the strident Minister of Justice, but preferred to refer to the Petrella's health conditions, instead of creating a case for nothing. Thus, forcing Italy to retreat. It seems reasonable that the same sovereign decision that Tarso upholds elevates the tension in relations with Italy, which saw a Brazilian Minister of Justice for the first time questioning the justice system of other country. A case of second class contempt. A good example of how a fair decision can be undermined by those who do not know how to respect the sovereignty of others.
Tarso has failed (indeed) on BatisttiSavarese's Blog

Football is not the only strong link between Brazilians and Italians. There are many other cultural interfaces, and also the fact that Brazil is home for the biggest Italian community outside Italy. In the present case, it seems that this proximity has ignited a complex chain reaction over unresolved issues from both countries’ past: the “years of lead“.

In Brazil, where armed groups fought against the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 until 1985, an amnesty law resulted that neither security officials accused of torture nor those involved in violence against the state faced prosecution. Italy is proud of having maintained its political institutions during its ‘anni di piombo‘ (1970-80), but many aspects of the period seems to be shrouded in mystery.

A key figure in this debate here in Brazil turned to be Mino Carta, the Italian-born journalist, publisher and writer that helped create 3 of the 4 main magazines currently published in the country. Known as an independent and authoritative voice, and also a close friend to President Lula, he has used his blog to vigorously attack minister Genro for his stance and declarations on the Battisti episode. Last week, in a last post where he declares having lost faith in journalism, and in Brazil, Mr. Carta closed his blog and announced his silence at Carta Capital, the magazine.

Telefona Jean-Paul Lagarride de Darfur. Pergunta: “Vem cá, o Tarso Genro quer declarar guerra à Itália?” “Talvez”, admito. Segue-se o seguinte diálogo.
Ele – Além de jurista, trata-se de um professor de história e ciências políticas. Um mestre.
Eu – Você acha?
Ele – Claro, acaba de dar à Itália uma aula de democracia. Como o Brasil saiu dos seus anos de chumbo? Com a lei da anistia. A Itália, até hoje, não fez a sua lei da anistia.
Eu – Deve ser porque a Itália não teve um general Golbery.
Ele – Pois é. E como o velho Golba fez à Itália.
Eu – Quem sabe o nosso Tarso não tenha percebido que há chumbo e chumbo?
Lagarride e Tarso GenroBlog do Mino

It is Jean-Paul Lagarride on the call, from Darfur.
Question: “Hey, Does Tarso Genro wants to declare war to Italy?” “Perhaps,” I admit. Here is the following dialogue.
He – Besides being a lawyer, he is a professor of history and political science. A master.
I – You think?
He – Yes, just gave Italy a lesson of democracy. How has Brazil came out from their years of lead? With the law of amnesty. Italy has so far not made their own law of amnesty.
I – Must be because Italy has not had a general Golbery [mastermind of the Brazilian redemocratization process].
He – Yeah. And how the old Golba did to Italy.
I – Maybe our dear Tarso has not noticed that there are lead and lead?
Lagarride e Tarso GenroBlog do Mino

Está claro que o ministro Tarso não erra ao dizer que a mídia nativa está sempre a agredir o governo de Lula, e contra esta forma desvairada de preconceito CartaCapital tem se manifestado com frequência. Ocorre que, ao referir-se à extradição negada a mídia está certa, antes de mais nada em função dos motivos alegados, a exibir ao mundo ignorância, falta de sensibilidade diplomática e irresponsabilidade política, ao afrontar um estado democrático amigo. De todo modo, Battisti transcende sua personalidade de “assassino em estado puro”, segundo um grande magistrado como o italiano Armando Spataro, para se prestar a uma operação que visa compactar o PT e empolgar um certo gênero de patriotas canarinhos. Isto tudo me leva a uma conclusão desoladora, embora saiba de muitíssimos leitores generosos e fiéis: minha crença no jornalismo faliu.
DespedidaBlog do Mino

It is clear that Minister Tarso is not wrong when he says that the native media is always attacking Lula's government, and CartaCapital has frequently denounced this form of frantic prejudice. But in relation to the denied extradition the media is right, first and foremost because of the alleged reasons, and also for the display of ignorance to the world, the lack of diplomatic sensitivity, and the political irresponsibility of confronting a democratic friend state. Anyway, Battisti transcends the personality of a “killer in pure form,” according to the great Italian magistrate Armando Spataro, and serves well to the political operation that aims to unite the PT [Lula's party] and excite a certain kind of ‘canarinho’ patriots. The whole thing leads me to a bleak conclusion, although aware of the many generous and loyal readers: my belief in journalism has failed.
FarewellBlog do Mino

Cesare Battisti is inprisoned in Brasilia waiting for the final decision of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF). An important piece of the process is a letter from Francesco Cossiga, the hardline interior minister of the 1970s, confirming that Battisti’s crimes were indeed political in nature. In a recent interview on IstoÉ magazine, which was broadly reblogged by those following the case, Battisti urges his home country to review what really happened back then.

“Acho que o gesto do ministro Genro foi de coragem e de humanidade. A decisão é muito importante não só para mim, Cesare Battisti, mas para a humanidade. A Itália precisa reler a própria história. Nós estamos dando à nação italiana a possibilidade de reler sua história com serenidade, humanamente… Naquela época, a tortura fazia parte do cotidiano da Itália. A Itália tem de reconhecer isso. Mas não pode. Porque a Itália é Europa. E a Itália não pode admitir que nos anos 1970 viveu uma guerra civil.”
Cesare Battisti – “Por que tudo isso comigo?”Blog do Se

“I think Minister Genro's gesture was one of courage and humanity. It is a very important not only for me, Cesare Battisti, but for humanity. Italy needs to reread their own history. We are giving the Italian nation the opportunity to read their story calmly, humanely … At that time, torture was part of daily life in Italy. Italy has to recognize that. But it can not. Because Italy is Europe. And Italy could not accept that in 1970 they went through a civil war. “
Cesare Battisti – “Por que tudo isso comigo?”Blog do Se

Navigating through the Brazilian blogs covering the episode, it is easy to find opinions that mirrors what the main media vehicles are publishing. Results of a recent pool at shows 80% of disagreement with the Brazilian government decision to grant refugee to Mr. Battisti. Still, there are some interesting takes on the contradictions evoked by the different political solutions carried out by Brazil and Italy to resolve their political wounds of the past, and how to deal with the contradictions posed by today and tomorrow.

A grande imprensa se refere ao ‘terrorista Battisti’ como se tivesse agido ontem, mas estamos falando de coisas acontecidas entre 30 e 40 anos atrás. O ministro Tarso Genro tem razão ao dizer que a imprensa teve comportamento diferente quando ele propôs a rediscussão da punição aos torturadores. Aí disseram que era coisa do passado… Ele é acusado de ter tomado uma decisão política, mas seguiu o que o STF já tinha decidido sobre isso. Um dos críticos do ministro foi o governador Serra, que se mostrou escandalizado com Battisti, mas na última eleição apoiou Fernando Gabeira, que sequestrou um embaixador americano, mas não é considerado terrorista.
Fascistas italianos e mídia brasileira mentem sobre BatisttiBahia de Fato

The mainstream media refers to the ‘terrorist Battisti’ as if he had acted yesterday, but we are speaking of things happened between 30 and 40 years ago. The Minister Tarso Genro is right to say that the press showed a different behavior when he proposed a debate on punishment of the torturers. At that moment they said it was a thing from the past … He is accused of having taken a political decision, but he followed what the STF had already decided on such cases. One of the minister's critics was governor Serra [from Sao Paulo state, the opposition main candidate for the 2010 presidential elections], who displayed his shock about granting refugee to Battisti, but in the last election supported Fernando Gabeira, who kidnapped an American ambassador, but is not considered a terrorist.
Italian fascists and Brazilian media lie about BattistiBahia de Fato

Por fim, uma pergunta básica, incontornável: qual é a motivação do governo italiano? Por que tanto empenho em botar as mãos num personagem tão inofensivo, depois de tanto tempo? A resposta, ou parte dela, está na conjuntura doméstica da Itália, marcada pela crise e por uma onda de protestos em que se sobressai um vigoroso ativismo estudantil. Berlusconi e seus aliados reagem à ascensão de uma esquerda não-domesticada sacudindo o espantalho dos “anos de chumbo”. A histeria em torno do caso Battisti, manipulado para criar uma anacrônica associação entre os “radicais” de ontem e de hoje, nada tem de irracional. Ao contrário, dá respaldo a um discurso em que o prefeito fascista de Roma, Gianni Alemanno, acaba de declarar que “o movimento estudantil italiano (seria) dirigido por 300 criminosos da universidade La Sapienza”.
A mídia contra BattistiEntreatos

Finally, a basic unaviodable question: what is the motivation of the Italian government? Why so much effort into putting their hands on a harmless character, after so long? The answer, or part thereof, is the domestic situation in Italy, marked by the crisis and a wave of protests in which stands out a strong student activism. Berlusconi and his allies react to the rise of a non-domesticated left swinging the scarecrow of the “years of lead”. The hysteria around the Battisti case, which is being manipulated to create an anachronistic association between “radicals” of yesterday and today, makes sense. In contrast, gives support to a speech in which the fascist mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, has just declared that “the Italian student movement is (might be) run by 300 criminals from La Sapienza university.”
The media against BattistiEntreatos

Let's hope for a good match today, where the genuine respect that people in Brazil and Italy nurture for both countrie's citizens, culture and, specially, artful football, outshines minor politically motivated imbroglios.


  • Zz

    Is a terrorist..go to jail.

  • Paolo

    I’m not informed enough to say if brazilian or Italian Govts. are right or wrong, but how do brazilian bloggers dare to call berluscony Goverment a ” comedian one” when we are retrieving from global crisis as the best country in europe after france, when our unemployement rate is still below 10%, and when 50.000 people homeless after april Aquila quake will all have a brand new,free comfortable house within november,many just had, with marble and wooden floors,midern furnitures,front yard and backyard,and while Italian army is contributing to peace effort in UN missions in Afghanistan, Lebanon (where we are chiefs of mission), Serbia,Montenegro,Mocambique, and we played a key role in Iraq? Is natural resources reach brazil doing the same? Why don’t you compare unalphabet rate or newborn kid death in Italy and in brazil,or culter and university levels in the 2 countries,or simply the horrible poor people rate in Brasil compared with our’s where we all enjoy free medical health care,almost free education system, state endorserd contribution to fired people, universal pension plan for everibody?. Think,my brazilian friend,think. I’m not willing to defend Berlusconi,I’m just remarking why we are the 6th power in the world and you are called a developing country.

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