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Son of Mafia boss Toto Riina causes outrage with new book

By David Amoruso

Giuseppe Salvatore Riina, the son of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, the former boss of bosses of the Sicilian Mafia, is causing outrage in Italy this week with the release and promotion of his book Riina Family Life. While calling his father a “hero,” he refuses to discuss Cosa Nostra or his father’s murderous acts, which caused the deaths of hundreds, including innocent civilians.

Now 38 years old, Giuseppe Salvatore (right) has served an 8-year-and-10-month sentence for Mafia related crimes and is currently on probation, forbidden to leave the province and living under a curfew.

Though many years have passed, he vividly remembers the nights watching football on the television with his father. “Dad would set up the sofa just for the two of us with a tray of biscuits baked for the occasion and two chairs to use as footrests ... I hadn’t yet turned 15 and he, Totò Riina, was my hero,” he tells Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

As Riina spent time at home with his family, he was Italy’s most wanted fugitive Mafioso and ran his criminal empire from his family hideout. During those days, this “hero” ordered countless murders. It was his word that resulted in the killing of Mafiosi and their relatives, cops and lawyers, anti-mafia judges and politicians.

The murder spree was, in fact, so audacious that media began naming the high placed dead, excellent cadavers.

Chief among these were men like corrupt politician Salvo Lima, murdered because he had failed to stop Mafia prosecutions, and true heroes like anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were both blown up by Cosa Nostra assassins acting on orders of Riina.  

“The TV was on RAI Uno, and the special edition of the news had already been going on for an hour,” Riina’s son remembers of the day that Falcone was killed. “We didn’t ask any questions, we just watched. They kept showing Giovanni Falcone’s face on the screen. A smoking crater, filled with wreckage and policemen looking for survivors ... My father Totò was at home too. He was sitting in his chair in front of the television. He was silent, and didn’t say a word, but didn’t seem upset or particularly interested in what he was watching. He just seemed to frown slightly, listening but clearly thinking about something else.”

Later, while on holiday at the Sicilian seaside, the television brought news of another victim. “It was one of those days when my father had preferred to stay back at the house and wait for us, surrounded by newspapers, which he read slowly but carefully,” Giuseppe Salvatore writes. “In recent months he had become more careful about going out in public, although at home he was his usual self – smiling and willing to play. A photo of the magistrate Paolo Borsellino taken a few weeks previously appeared on the screen.”

His sister Lucia, 12 years old at that time, immediately panicked by what she saw, but not for the usual reason. Giuseppe Salvatore: “She went over to my silent father. ‘Dad, do we have to leave?’ ‘Why do you want to leave?’ he asked. ‘I don’t know. Do we have to go back to Palermo?’ she asked, and he replied: ‘You just think about enjoying your holidays. We’ll stay here by the sea for a while.’ Lucia laughed innocently and hugged him ... And so we stayed until the end of August.”

One big, happy, carefree family.

Angelo Salvatore Riina’s refusal to condemn or comment on his father's numerous crimes is causing outrage among many Italians this week as he is promoting his book in the media. And not just anywhere, but on primetime on national television network RAI Uno, which is run by the state.

In an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Angelo Salvatore is asked about his steadfast refusal to comment on his father’s crimes. “Silence is better, out of respect for [the victims’] pain and suffering,” he answers. “Also in this case, the right word is the one that is left unsaid.” When the journalist counters that it sounds more like the Mafia’s code of silence, omertà, than compassion, he disagrees: “It’s not omertà, it’s just that I didn’t write the book to discuss my father’s convictions, also because that would be pointless. I was interested in showing that there is and was a family that had nothing to do with the trials going on outside, that no one knows about, even if everyone thinks they have the right to judge us.”

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