Violent royalist demonstrations demand in vain that the strongly monarchist South secede. In Sicily the Mafia moves into the cities from the countryside and becomes involved in land speculation and construction. Italy's constitution, effective in 1948, guarantees basic rights of freedom and nondiscrimination. The Fascist Party and the monarchy are outlawed, and the royal family is exiled.
The Communists promote widespread strikes for higher wages. When the strikes escalate into a national crisis, government troops and police forces are called in to restore the peace. Workers in the South continue to demonstrate their frustrations with poverty through strikes and riots.
As Sicilians move north in search of work, Mafia operations spread throughout the country. The Mafia prospers, delivering votes and financing political campaigns in exchange for local contracts. Organized crime, however, is not yet a major concern for prosecutors. Legislators attempt to restrain the most glaring forms of labor force exploitation. Crime and violence accompany rapid urbanization.
The Mafia's income from drugs and arms trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion reaches into the billions of dollars as it becomes an independent economic force of its own. Despite laws enacted to combat organized crime, the lack of political will behind them means that nothing stands in the Mafia's way. Repression by factory employers and the police drives a resistance movement to arm itself.
Political violence escalates as the extreme-left Red Brigades and other groups turn to terrorism that culminates in the kidnapping and assassination of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Far-right groups are responsible for a bombing at the Bologna railway station that kills 82 people. In 1981 a corruption scandal involving hundreds of public servants brings down the government.
Italy becomes a major world center of illegal arms transfers. After a leap in the number of murders, including those of Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa (who had directed a campaign against the Red Brigades) and his wife, Prime Minister Craxi cracks down on organized crime. Legislation forbids membership in the Mafia and permits the investigation of business and banking activities of Mafia suspects.
As a result of new legislation, the government is able to put impressive numbers of Mafia members behind bars and impound their property, including well-known hotels in Rome and Milan. International and domestic terrorist events continue on Italian soil in spite of this success.
Magistrate Antonio Di Pietro investigates a corruption network in which former Prime Ministers Craxi and Andreotti are among dozens of accused high-ranking politicians. The "Clean Hands" investigation shows that most political parties are involved in an institutionalized system of bribes (Tangentopoli, or "Bribesville"). Constitutional reforms largely end proportional representation in Parliament.
Former Prime Minister Andreotti and four others are charged with the 1979 murder of a journalist alleged to have been blackmailing him. Andreotti is later arraigned on further corruption charges, along with former Prime Ministers Berlusconi and Craxi, former Foreign Minister Gianni De Michelis, and former Chief Prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro.
A constitutional reform commission introduces direct elections for the office of president. In 1998 former Prime Minister Berlusconi is convicted of financial crimes, but his sentence is immediately quashed. The Italian police attract unwanted international attention when they fatally shoot a young activist during violent clashes with anti-globalization protesters at the 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa.
Parliament passes judiciary reform laws that an angry opposition sees as an attempt to protect Prime Minister Berlusconi and his associates from prosecution. The assassination of a Labor Ministry advisor prompts fears of a revival of 1970s-style political terrorism. Former prime minister Giulio Andreotti is convicted of having ordered a Mafia hit; he is sentenced to jail and appeals.
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