Colombia and Italy stand as object lessons in what can happen where crime is tolerated and criminals respected. Crime grows too strong. Whoever appears to govern, criminals do so in the shadows. When the time comes to crack down, it can't be done. Crime is immune to the law of society, and society cringes before the new law of crime.
For too long, the Mafia thrived in Sicily as the alternative to feudal controls holding the people down. Governments were content to see an alternative to the communists. But Robin Hood legends are misplaced. The Octopus, as it is called in Italy, reaches nationwide and rules people through fear, not generosity.
The third assassination in Sicily of a leading official charged with prosecuting the Mafia has plunged Italy into a crisis of confidence and the shaky government of Prime Minister Giuliano Amato into disarray. Giovanni Lizzio, the police official investigating the protection rackets of Catania, was murdered by gunfire two days after troops flew in to uphold law. This followed the Palermo car-bomb assassinations of Judge Paolo Borsellino July 19 and Judge Giovanni Falcone May 23. The Mafia challenges the government's authority to do anything about it. Several police and officials have resigned. The Mafia is winning, while Italians wonder at a possible link to corruption in Rome and the north, where such things are not expected.