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Bernardo Provenzano’s death will create a new order in Cosa Nostra

by Roberto Galullo

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Now there’s one fewer. The Cosa Nostra’s new structure is adapting to the deaths of the old bosses, and now that Bernardo Provenzano has died some are waiting for Totò Riina’s death in order to shift the Mafia’s balance of power.

The latest evidence of this came on March 16th. On that day, the district attorney of Palermo arrested 62 people: among the intercepted messages attached to the warrant was a recording of one of the sons of the important leader of Palermo’s Santa Maria di Gesù clan, who told his uncle, “[Expletive], have you seen Bernardo Provenzano? Poor guy, he’s dying. If both of them die, no one’s going to see the light of day. Is that true, uncle Mario?”.

Mariano Marchese, the uncle and a man who investigators consider to have been one of the most influential people in the Villagrazia-Santa Maria di Gesù Mafia territory (he died April 14th), bluntly responded “yes”. It stands to reason that the other person to whom the uncle and nephew referred was Totò Riina. Even though there have recently been signs that the Cosa Nostra’s Regional Commission was about to convene, Riina is still considered the head of the hierarchy.

In this current period (which has, for quite some time, been defined by the Anti-Mafia Investigation Department (DIA) and the National Anti-Mafia and Anti-Terrorism Office (DNAA) as “fluid”), the Cosa Nostra’s inner workings have been shaken up: even Matteo Messina Denaro’s leadership is in doubt.

Francesco Lo Voi, head of Palermo’s DA office, told the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission on November 4th, 2015 that, “The Cosa Nostra’s structural integrity is unquestionable. Recently-intercepted messages have confirmed that the rules, even those regarding the internal structure, are still being followed.”

‘The internal structure,” in this case, refers to when men of different Mafia territories or even different provinces are put in contact to solve certain problems—the evidence thereof indicates that the internal structure is intact.

This also means that there is a single authority, as shown in the past by not only the Cosa Nostra’s commission (which reconvenes every once in a while, and did so recently) but also by references to a greatly ‘charismatic’ person who is assumed to be an important leader. There may be something to these inferences.

At the moment there probably isn’t an absolute leader (“probably” being the key word) but this to some extent strengthens the historical structure of the Cosa Nostra: traditionally the Mafia does not have an absolute leader, but has an interaction between the various territories. There is a somewhat fluid unity in place (so to speak) even in the absence of an absolute leader. Matteo Messina Denaro does not seem (“seem” being the key word) to occupy that position at this moment.

The leaders come and go (in one way or another), but the Cosa Nostra remains strong.