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Italy's ex-premier Giulio Andreotti dies at 94

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm •  Published: May 6, 2013

ROME (AP) — Giulio Andreotti personified the nation he helped shape, the good and the bad.

One of Italy's most important postwar figures, he helped draft the country's constitution after World War II, served seven times as premier and spent 60 years in Parliament.

But the Christian Democrat who was friends with popes and cardinals was also a controversial figure who survived corruption scandals and allegations of aiding the Mafia: Andreotti was accused of exchanging a "kiss of honor" with the mob's longtime No. 1 boss and was indicted in what was called "the trial of the century" in Palermo.

He was eventually cleared, but his legacy was forever marred.

Still clinging to his last official title, senator-for-life, Andreotti died Monday at age 94 after an extended period of poor health that included a hospitalization for a heart ailment.

Andreotti grew more stooped with age, and infirmity kept him from what few official duties remained, such as opening the inaugural session of the new Senate in March, a privilege reserved for the eldest-serving member that fell this time to the next-in-line.

Andreotti, a key player in the now-defunct Christian Democratic Party that dominated politics for nearly half a century, helped bring prosperity to what was once one of Europe's poorest countries. When a corruption scandal flushed out the old political guard in the 1990s, marking the end of the first Italian Republic, he survived.

But he lost political clout after he became a senator-for-life in 1991, an appointment that freed him from electoral cycles but also deprived him of capital in the backroom deal-making that helped create his reputation as a Machiavellian politician. And so, Italy entered the so-called second republic, characterized by stalemates and infighting, and dominated by other parties and other men, such as Silvio Berlusconi.

Arguably among Italy's most important statesmen, having also served eight times as defense minister and five times as foreign minister, Andreotti will be buried with a small private Mass, not a state funeral befitting of his contributions to the nation. The choice was made by his family, according to Italian media, and is perhaps a reflection of his mixed legacy.

The condolences that flowed in also underscored Italy's uncertain judgment on a figure who dominated discourse for decades.

In announcing the death, Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno called Andreotti "the most representative politician" Italy had known in its recent history. Pier Ferdinando Casini, a centrist political leader, said he was certain that "history will give this statesman a more sober and serious opinion than his detractors made during his life."

President Giorgio Napolitano, at 87 a contemporary of Andreotti, said history would judge his career but he wanted to extend a national salute to a man who represented Italy overseas and in Europe with "exceptional" skill.

Center-left Premier Enrico Letta was similarly cautious in his condolences, saying Andreotti was a first-rate "protagonist" in Italy's democracy and public life.

Andreotti's political career was as varied as it was long, with posts covering everything from cinema to sports. Born in 1919, he once noted that he had outlived two other Italian phenomena that emerged that year: fascism and the precursor of his Christian Democrats, the Italian Popular Party.

"Of all three, only I remain," he said.

Andreotti was well-known for his political acumen, subtle humor and witty allusions. With sharp eyes, thin lips and a stooped figure, he was immediately recognizable to generations of Italians. Friends and foes alike admired his intellectual agility and his grasp of the issues.

Andreotti's rise in the Italian political scene mirrored the rise of Italy, which was emerging from two decades of fascist dictatorship under Benito Mussolini. He joined the conservative Christian Democrats, was part of the assembly that wrote the constitution and was elected to Parliament in 1948.

He remained there ever since.

He held a series of Cabinet positions after World War II until he became premier for the first time in 1972. Twenty years later, he finished his last stint as premier.

Although staunchly pro-American and a firm supporter of Italy's NATO membership, Andreotti was the first Christian Democrat to accept Communist support, even if indirect, in one of his governments. The Cabinet that was formed after big Communist gains in the 1976 election needed the Communists and other leftists to abstain — rather than cast "no" votes — during parliamentary votes.

When an exhibit of Pablo Picasso paintings traveled to Italy in 1953, it is believed that then-deputy minister Andreotti intervened to prevent the exhibition in Rome of "Massacre in Korea," which is seen as critical of U.S. intervention in the Korean War. The same painting was the centerpiece of a Picasso exhibit in Milan that closed this January.

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