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BERLUSCONI Y SU SALUD

Cable sobre "las fiestas salvajes" de Berlusconi

La Embajada en Roma informa de que los efectos de las "fiestas salvajes" le pasan factura a Berlusconi

ID: 231600
Date: 2009-10-27 15:17:00
Origin: 09ROME1187
Source: Embassy Rome
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Dunno: 09ROME1143
Destination: VZCZCXRO1363
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHRO #1187/01 3001517
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 271517Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY ROME
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2810
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHFL/AMCONSUL FLORENCE 3861
RUEHMIL/AMCONSUL MILAN 0293
RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES 4074

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ROME 001187

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/23/2026
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, IT
SUBJECT: ITALY: SCANDALS TAKING TOLL ON BERLUSCONI'S
PERSONAL AND POLITICAL HEALTH

REF: ROME 1143

ROME 00001187 001.2 OF 003


Classified By: Ambassador David H. Thorne for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C/NF) SUMMARY. Though PM Berlusconi's parliamentary
majority is strong, and nobody is yet willing to predict his
political demise, a growing list of scandals, adverse court
decisions and health issues have weakened him and led some
erstwhile Berlusconi allies to begin hedging their bets on
his political longevity. In a souring political environment,
talk of conspiracy theories often trumps real political
debate and distracts the Berlusconi government from pursuing,
or even developing, a coherent political agenda. END SUMMARY.

PRIVATE MATTERS WEIGHING ON BERLUSCONI

2. (SBU) After a long hot spring and summer of personal and
professional scandals, PM Berlusconi, returning from the
August recess appeared briefly rejuvenated by a successful G8
summit and continued popularity with his base. However, the
first of several blows fell on October 7 when a civil court
ruled that the Berlusconi family's flagship business,
Finnivest, must pay a rival company Euro 750 million for
damages occurred as a result of a Finnivest lawyer bribing a
judge in a decision involving both companies. Two days
later, the Italian Constitutional Court concluded that one of
the Berlusconi government's first pieces of legislation, a
2008 law postponing criminal investigations against
Berlusconi and other senior officials, was unconstitutional
(REFTEL). As a result, Italian magistrates have, once again,
taken up several long-standing criminal cases against
Berlusconi, with one case due to resume as early as November.

3. (C/NF) Two officials personally and professionally close
to Berlusconi, in separate conversations with the Embassy,
recently described the Prime Minister in strikingly similar
terms. Council of Ministers U/S Gianni Letta told the
Ambassador October 23 that Berlusconi is "physically and
politically weak," describing the normally hyperactive
Berlusconi as "not energetic." Longtime Berlusconi friend,
Senate Defense Committee President Giampiero Cantoni, told an
Embassy political officer October 22 that, "we are all
worried about his health," noting that Berlusconi has fainted
three times in public in recent years and that his medical
tests have come back "a complete mess." Cantoni said
Berlusconi's frequent late nights and penchant for partying
hard mean he does not get sufficient rest. The Italian press
reported October 27 that Berlusconi has a mild case of
scarlet fever, which he reportedly contracted from his
grandchild. (Note: Berlusconi dozed off briefly during the
Ambassador's initial courtesy call in September, and looked
distracted and tired at an October 19 event attended by the
Ambassador. End note.)

4. (C/NF) Cantoni termed Berlusconi overwhelmed with private
concerns. He noted that Berlusconi has felt alienated from
his family since his wife, Veronica Lario, set off a public
uproar by publishing an open letter last spring asking for a
divorce and accusing the 74-year old PM of consorting with
minors. Lario is reportedly asking for fifty percent of
Berlusconi's personal assets plus Euro 100 million in yearly
support. At the same time, according to Cantoni, Berlusconi
is afraid he will need to liquidate important business assets
to make the Euro 750 million payment ordered by a civil
court. Cantoni added that a Palermo-based mafia
investigation involving another longtime Berlusconi ally and
confidant already convicted of ties to organized crime could
turn into a damaging public spectacle.

LEADING TO CONSPIRACY THEORIES

5. (C/NF) A number of Embassy contacts have described a
political environment dominated by conspiracy theories. In
the wake of the two court rulings, Berlusconi accused
President of the Republic Napolitano of working against him
and lashed out emotionally against the judicial system, in
general. Letta told the Ambassador that Berlusconi's
outburst had led to "frosty" relations with Napolitano and
said the episode has made him appear weak. Several PdL
officials have hinted darkly to us that "institutional
forces" are trying to unseat Berlusconi. (Note: In Italian
political parlance, "institutional forces" can serve to mean
one of many groups operating and wielding influence behind
the scenes: business groups, intelligence services,
freemasons, the Vatican, the magistracy, the United States,
etc. While Italians are notably conspiracy-minded, their
paranoia -- at least as far as Italian domestic politics go
-- has historically been well-founded. End note.)

ROME 00001187 002.2 OF 003



6. (C/NF) Cantoni confided that Berlusconi believes the
Italian intelligence services might have deliberately
entrapped him in his alleged affair involving a minor.
During Cantoni's conversation with the Embassy political
officer, Berlusconi called the senator to confide that an
arrest was imminent of four Italian Carabinieri believed to
be blackmailing the Lazio regional governor with a sex-tape.
(Note: The story of the Lazio governor and a transsexual
prostitute exploded in the press a few days later. End note.)
Cantoni told the Embassy officer that this case has
convinced Berlusconi that he cannot trust his own
intelligence services. Separately, on October 21, Northern
League leader Umberto Bossi, commenting on Berlusconi's
troubles, told the Ambassador that organized crime figures
had probably set the trap for Berlusconi on some of the sex
scandals, but that nobody denies that Berlusconi willingly
went for the bait.

7. (C/NF) In a replay of the foreign press-induced scandals
of last spring and summer, a London Times article accusing
Italian troops in Afghanistan of paying off Taliban
insurgents sparked speculation in and out of the GoI that the
USG might have leaked the information to discredit the
Berlusconi government. Moreover, it is not uncommon these
days for PdL politicians to speculate-- via the press or even
directly to Embassy officers-- that the new U.S.
administration would like to see the Berlusconi government
fall; some even believe the USG is actively undermining
Berlusconi. The Ambassador recently probed Letta and Foreign
Minister Franco Frattini to determine whether they shared
this belief; both averred that they thought Berlusconi's
relationship with the US administration was strong.

AND PALACE INTRIGUE

8. (C/NF) One of Berlusconi's would-be heirs, Chamber of
Deputies President Gianfranco Fini, picked one of his
periodic fights with Berlusconi in September, ostensibly over
euthanasia and living wills, but the real issues were
Berlusconi's non-democratic leadership style inside the party
and the growing weight of the Northern League (LN). More
recently, the powerful Minister of Economy, Giulio Tremonti,
has openly challenged Berlusconi on fiscal policy, leading to
talk simultaneously of his possible resignation as well as
the possibility he was seeking to eventually succeed
Berlusconi. In response to a direct question from the
Ambassador, Gianni Letta said there was a small, but
unlikely, possibility the government could fall. Cantoni
told us Tremonti, Fini and former Minister of Interior
Giuseppe Pisanu are laying the groundwork for a
post-Berlusconi succession struggle but felt the government
remained stable for the time being.


AS WELL AS ERRATIC DECISIONS

9. (C/NF) Media mogul Berlusconi might be gaffe-prone when
speaking off the cuff, but he has historically shown himself
astute at strategic messaging. Those skills were noticeably
absent in a recent incident which provoked both criticism and
head-scratching from Berlusconi friend and foe alike. Ahead
of a three-day trip to Russia to celebrate Vladimir Putin's
birthday in mid-October, Berlusconi put out a press line that
the visit was a "strictly private affair." This announcement
was met with disbelief and some mockery. Adding to the
mystery, however, the day before his departure, Berlusconi
canceled his participation in the state visit of Jordan's
King Abdullah of Jordan, staying in Milan with the
explanation that he was feeling under the weather.
Berlusconi, who prides himself on his personal relationships
with key Middle East interlocutors thus, unavoidably, left
the impression that, in choosing private fun over statecraft,
he was husbanding his flagging energies for a blow-out party
at Putin's private dacha. With the further news that
Berlusconi was accompanied on the trip solely by Valentino
Valentini, an unofficial intermediary/bagman who serves as
Berlusconi's interpreter, Italy's political class openly
questioned whether Berlusconi was going to Russia principally
because the scrutiny of his private time by Italian and
foreign photographers had made parties in Italy too risky for
the time being.

COMMENT

10. (C/NF) Sex scandals, criminal investigations, family
problems and financial concerns appear to be weighing heavily
on Berlusconi's personal and political health, as well as on

ROME 00001187 003.2 OF 003


his decision-making ability. It is too early to begin
speculating about Berlusconi's political demise, and
Berlusconi has a well-known knack for rebounding. However,
though most are trying hard not to be too obvious about it,
some of Berlusconi's own lieutenants have apparently decided
it is not too early to begin laying the groundwork for "il
dopo," as Italians call the potential post-Berlusconi era. In
this souring political environment, conspiracy theories have
all but supplanted serious political debate. Septel will
address the implications of Berlusconi's fortunes on how we
do business with the government. END COMMENT
THORNE
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