Roberto Saviano’s controversial book “Gomorra” exposed the dealings of the Casalesi family, part of Naples’ all-powerful Camorra crime ring. In retaliation, clan bosses put out a contract on his head. He now lives under police protection. Some say Saviano brought this on himself. Last year his book was made into a movie, with Saviano helping to write the script.
He spoke to Euronews in Barcelona, under tight security.
Euronews: Christmas brought a rather unwanted present – a death sentence from Camorra boss Carmine Schiavone. How do you manage to live with this pressure?
Saviano: Barely a day goes by without someone announcing my death. But, in order to attack me, my enemies need to extinguish the media spotlight shining on me. Because what keeps me going is not just the police protection – for which I am deeply grateful – but the interest of ordinary people and the success of my work. Even Schiavone said the other day in a newspaper that he will have to wait until the wave of popularity surrounding me breaks.
Euronews: But how do you balance day-to-day life with this fear?
Saviano: I am not scared. I undertand perfectly that they want to make me pay. I try, in various ways, to imagine how, when and why. Because they can never accept that someone who stands up to them can be strong! Their strategy is simple – they try to destroy the image, the essence, of the person who is attacking them, that is what they have always done. They try to make out that you are lying, that you are crazy, a clown. Recently, that is what they have tried with me. If they can put out that message, that you are nothing, then you are vulnerable.
Euronews: Do you think the Camorra is vulnerable?
Saviano: If only! More than being vulnerable, they are actually under the spotlight. And that is why they hate me. Outside Italy people ask how can it be that a book can spark such hatred in such a powerful organisation. The truth is that the book hurt them because millions of people have read it and it has grabbed the media’s attention – the tv, the radio, the newspapers, like never before. And it has driven an even more important response from the state. Because, with all the media attention, the powers-that-be could not sweep it all under the carpet, like they have for years, especially in Italy.
Euronews: You have said that the mafia has traditionally used construction and the housing market to launder money. How are they handling the world financial crisis?
Saviano: Nothing has changed! Except that they have become even more powerful! According to UN studies on the drug trade, the big mafia clans are moving into international banks which, because of the crisis, are happy to accept dodgy money to stay afloat. And that is bad. Not just because of black money moving between the banks, that has happened for years. The problem now is that big depositors can even influence policy: whom to finance, whom to protect. It means we are in danger of losing our future. Today, the mafia is building a future which suits them.
Euronews: How can we change that? If you could do something, how would you foil the Camorra?
Saviano: Well, as things get worse, I think more time is needed to defeat these criminal gangs. But, there is not the will in Italy. They have other things to worry about. Things like jobs, pensions. They think the mafia is just one of a million other problems. But no! It is THE problem!
Euronews: How much has organised crime affected Italy?
Saviano: Today, organised crime affects the whole of Europe. In Italy, its influence on the economy rose steeply during the ’90s. Now, the German economy, the English, the Spanish are all deeply touched by organised crime, and no government really knows how it is affecting the lives of its people. I believe that soon Europe will pay for this mafia activity. And when those governments finally realise the size of the problem, it will be too late, as it is already in Italy.
Euronews: You have been asked many times if you would have started the book, knowing the consequences. You said: “Not a chance” because you have become a “prisonner” of the book….
Saviano: On one hand, I would have done it because it has been a phenomenon in the world of publishing. So many people have read it, including those who never go to a library, or a book store. But, on a personal note, I wish I had not started. My life has utterly changed; exploded. I have no doubts: I would not do it again if it was simply down to me to choose. Today, I hate it. I can do no more. I have not the slightest sympathy for my book.
Euronews: How do you see the future? Have you other projects planned, despite living as a fugitive?
Saviano: Yes.. I have some things in mind. Once, a veteran Italian journalist, Enzo Biagi, said to me: “The country will never forgive you, because Italy does not want people to write things like this.” When the film came out, there was a wave of criticism of me, saying there was no need to talk of these things. That may seem silly from the outside. An American or a Spaniard might say that those criticisms were unthinkable, but that is the nature of Italy. That is just the Italian way, and everyone knows that, even the politicians. One should never lift the lid on dark things, they should stay hidden, between us. So, truthfully, I do not think of the future; I cannot even imagine it.
Euronews: Roberto Saviano, it was a pleasure. Thank you.