Roberto Saviano: the writer wanted dead by the Italian mafia

His new book is coming out later this year, but who is Roberto Saviano and why he is so loved and hated in Italy?

Roberto Saviano was born in 1979 in Naples, and since he was a child he has seen the influence of Neapolitan mafia Camorra in his city and the whole country. In 2006, when he was only 26 he wrote his first book Gomorrah, which has changed his life forever, where he describes the clandestine particulars of the Camorra business. Because of this book he has been threatened by several Neapolitan “godfathers” and for this reason the Italian Minister of the Interior has guaranteed him a permanent police escort. In autumn 2008, the informant Carmine Schiavone, cousin of the imprisoned Casalesi clan boss Francesco Schiavone, revealed to the authorities that the clan had planned to kill Saviano and his police escort by Christmas on the motorway between Rome and Naples with a bomb.

After this information came out, in October, six Nobel Prize-winning authors and intellectuals (Orhan Pamuk, Dario Fo, Rita Levi-Montalcini, Desmond Tutu, Gunter Grass and Mikhail Gorbachev) published an article in which they came out in support of Saviano against Camorra, and they think that Camorra is not just a problem of security and public order, but also a democratic one. They also think that the Italian government must protect his life, and help Saviano to have a normal life. But why is it so important to say something apparently obvious? Because in Italy Roberto Saviano is a controversial figure. From one side, including author-philosofer Umberto Eco people love him and see him as a “national hero”, and from the other side people accuse him of defaming the country and being unpatriotic, using the words Italian ex Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Unfortunately many people in Italy's political class have the same idea, thinking maybe that putting our heads in the sand is the right thing to do in the war against the mafia.

In his second book, Zero Zero Zero, he talks about the dominance of cocaine in the international economy, covering its movement across continents. He describes cocaine as the biggest business in the world, the fastest way to make money. For example, if one invests $1000 in Apple's stocks after one year you get $1200 – $1500. If one invests $1000 in cocaine, after one year you get $182,000. This is because the drug trade is without rules, the only thing that could stop one drug trafficker is another bigger and more dangerous. In fact, when one person becomes a drug trafficker he or she has two different futures, death or prison.

In a recent interview for Spanish television, he has talked about the role of Spain in the international drug trade. In fact Spain is the first country in Europe that drugs transit through, and many bosses of Italian mafia have trafficked drugs into Spain. More than 50 kilometers of Costa del Sol effectively belong to the Italian mafia, indeed the Sicilian mafia of Cosa Nostra call it Costa Nostra.

Legalization is the only way to stop the role of mafia in this business and several countries are moving in this direction.

We hope that all countries could understand how important it is to turn off the tap of money that is dumping millions in the mafia's pocket.