Clare Longrigg at the Guardian offers a piece on the bloody reign of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, the Cosa Nostra "Boss of Bosses" in Sicily.
“Riina was still the boss of Cosa Nostra when he died. No one had taken his place after his arrest. It is unprecedented for the position not to be filled when the boss is arrested,” said Roberto Saviano, the author of Gomorrah.
That Totò Riina held on to his position as “boss of bosses” while in isolation in prison for the last 24 years of his life is remarkable. But in mafia culture, symbolism is important, and Riina, who died on Friday, was able to make his views known via signals, messages and intermediaries. From prison, he issued threats against the anti-mafia prosecutor Nino Di Matteo, who now lives under armed protection. Riina’s sons, one of whom has been convicted of four murders, have allegedly found ways to communicate on behalf of their father.
Why has there been no successor?
Riina’s leadership of Cosa Nostra was a reign of terror. Nicknamed “the Beast”, he was utterly ruthless and extremely violent. “One of the ironies about Riina’s reign was that he held total power, he centralised power to an unprecedented extent, and his power was a catastrophe for Cosa Nostra,” said John Dickie, the author of Mafia Republic.
Riina’s war against the state was part of a plan to create a new order of mafia power in politics and business. His ambition was shocking. With a series of high-profile assassinations and a bombing campaign on the mainland in the early 1990s, he planned to bring the state to its knees and force it to make a pact with his organisation. His tactic was to make Cosa Nostra a force to be reckoned with, and so brought it out into the open in a way it had never been before.
But Riina’s war almost destroyed Cosa Nostra.
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