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This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

July 24, 2010

A Judge & the Mafioso

History has a nasty habit of repeating itself, and is certainly repeating itself in more ways than one in the battle of Lokayukta Justice Santhosh Hegde crusade against illegal mining in Karnataka. A lot has been written about this case but I wonder why no one has drawn parallels to the past. The history i am referring to is the one in the past when the baton ultimately passed on to a crusader judge to take on the might of the organized mafia. The battle grounds were drawn in different countries at different points in time i.e,, Italy, Colombia and now India but the protagonists in the battle bear striking similarity . On the face of it looks like a simple story of the good vs evil, honesty vs corruption and David vs Goliaths but what romanticizes these stories is the underlying currents of Heroism, a one man’s fight carried on when the system has lost it, a fight of a righteous one man against the power of money & influence. Justice SK Hegde in my opinion stands in the same pantheon as Alfonso Valdivieso & Giovanni falcone.

Falcone, the antimafia judge was nothing less than a folk hero in Rome during the 1980’s. He was instrumental in reigning the Sicilian mafia (also known as Cosa nostra) who for years had let a reign of terror by extortion & murder. This mafia legitimised itself through various business activities by controlling public & private contracts (at an estimated 6.5 Bn euro then) while they did undercover drug & arms trafficking. Not into active politics but they had law officials & police officers on their payrolls. Falcone systematically tried dismantling the mafia by a sustained campaign despite being a lone crusader. The political establishment having much to hide did not support him but despite languishing government support, Falcone and his staff continued their work in the anti-Mafia pool headquartered in Rome. Before Falcone's efforts, little progress had been made in prosecuting Sicilian Mafiosi who moved about in the United States, particularly in the New York area, without being traced by Italian authorities or identified by American ones. His efforts were cut short when the Mafiosi murdered him by blowing up his car on the way to the airport.

Lets cut the scene to Colombia where Prosecutor General Valdivieso had set himself the goal of separating Colombia's political elite from its murderous friendships and entanglements with drug mafia. The Cali Cartel, whose brief roots began in trafficking marijuana had shifted to cocaine due to its ease of transporting and greater profit margin. By the mid 1990's the trafficking empire of the Cali Cartel was a multi-billion dollar enterprise, In order to launder the incoming money of the trafficking operations, the Cali cartel heavily invested its funds into legitimate business ventures as well as front companies to mask the money through. The cartel also invested this money to gain influence within the government through bribes and favors.

Valdivieso had a role model in his uncle Galan who throughout the 1980s, as the drug cartels flourished and the killings escalated, pressed his attacks on the corruption of his political class. By the time Galan ran for the presidency in 1989, he had become a serious threat to the mafia's encroaching grip on the Colombian political establishment. Galán was murdered on the campaign trail in order allegedly to clear the path to the Presidential Palace for more pliable men who would cut deals, not fight. Alfonso Valdivieso, who hung Galán's portrait on his walls, undertook investigation of the links between the Cali cartel and the election campaign of the President Ernesto Samper that triggered the gravest political crisis in Colombian history. He ensured that by May, 1996, one government minister and the Attorney General were behind bars. The Minister of the Interior, the Foreign Secretary, and the Minister of Communications were charged with complicity in the cover-up of drug- mafia contributions to the Samper campaign. Eight Congress members were also arrested, while a further 170 out of a total of 230 came under investigation for drug corruption. Samper was given a temporary reprieve in May with the decision of a congressional commission to exonerate him of drug-corruption charges. Yet he found himself disgraced and lost power.

The moral (or the lack of it) in these stories that I see is that

a. First the mafia strikes it rich be it Drugs, Arms or Mining.
b. Then they try to legitimise their business, in the process they buy the political & bureaucratic classes with their riches
c. Then they make a dash at power , which they try to control mostly through proxy
d. Finally it takes one man, usually a judge to foil their efforts.
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