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“Eternal Giulio” – for half a century, Giulio Andreotti was a model of longevity in an Italy that lurched from one political crisis to the next.
Prime minister seven times between 1972 and 1992, Andreotti was also foreign minister six times. He played a part in almost every government of the post-war period – a stretch of 50 years which saw the Italian economy take off.
Politically a Christian-Democrat, Andreotti was also a devout Roman Catholic, who attended Mass each day and was on first name terms with four Popes, including John Paul II.
Made a life senator in 1991 by Italian President Francesco Cossiga, Andreotti’s critics say that while in office he was a master in the art of survival and compromise – even behind-the-scenes deals.
He quit politics in 1992 after his Christian Democrats gave a poor showing in legislative elections.
In 1993, the elder statesman’s reputation was tarnished by accusations of links with the Mafia. Informers said he was known as “Uncle Giulio” and swapped favours for the mob in return for votes for his Christian-Democrat party – accusations Andreotti always denied.
“If these informers are saying that they saw me meet with mafia bosses, even with Salvatore Riina, then this isn’t just rumour…its pure invention,” he said.
Andreotti worked hard to restore his reputation – but an appeals court found him guilty of the murder in 1979 of an investigative journalist – overturning a prior acquittal.
Despite being sentenced to 24 years in prison, Andreotti was then acquitted by Italy’s highest court in 2003.
The following year, in the third and final judgement in the case, he was partially cleared of collusion with the Mafia.
It was ruled that he had indeed had friendly connections with the Mafia before 1980 – but not after -and it was too late to bring a case.