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

Brazil and Italy will meet in a football game next Tuesday. 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 media 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 scheduled to be held on February 10 in London, leading Brazilians to sense a blow out of proportion. Berlusconi is the one to blame.

Gratuitous altercation the one created by the “Battisti case” and the attitude of the buffoon government headed by Silvio Berlusconi. 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 ItáliaDisolving in the Air

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 Hystery and the Brazilian SovereignityBlog de Luís Antônio Castagna Maia

The reaction now is very different from last year, 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 dimiss 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.

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

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 supicions 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.

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

Minister Tarso Genro said in Belem [at the Social Forum] that against Battisti’s extradition hold line diverse supporters, from amnesty advocates to torturers of the dictatorship, “with the exception of Mino Carta.” I appreciate the reference, however, I’ve got to make note of the fact that the minister falls in startling contradiction. Was not he who on a burst that verges on the volterian satire, suggested  that Italy should implement an amnesty law like the one signed in Brazil by the dictator in charge? Perhaps the Minister does not know that while in Brazil existed a Terror of State, in Italy happened a serious and failed terrorist attempt to destabilize a democratic state of law established since the end of fascism.
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.

“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.

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 kidnaped an American ambassador, but is not considered a terrorist.
Italian fascists and Brazilian media lie about BattistiBahia de Fato

Finally, a basic question, unavoidable: 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.