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THE VAJONT'S TOPICAL SITUATIONWhat can we learn to understand today's tragedies and protect the victims of earthquakes, floods and tidal waves
There's a Vajont that has never been told...It's not about that tremendous night 42 years ago. It's also not about the human greed, cautiousness, criminal thoughtlessly that overruled the unmistakable warnings received for years by that nature raped by man. It's the Vajont of the aftermath. After that Mount Toc, basically corrupted by a project that common sense should have avoided to fulfill, released a gigantic landslide. After that damned wave crashed on Longarone and its parts, on Castellavazzo, Erto and Casso reaping 1920 human lives. After that al that could have been done to avoid the "de facto slaughter" was not done.
- It's the tale of how a Government behaved with the survivors, those that for a mere twist of fate were not at home with those relatives swept away by the flood.
- It's the story of how the Establishment accomplished to make a business, also out of the fate and how in the name of the Vajont, the entire industrial development of the Triveneto area was planned, of how laws have been passed to award billions (former and actual ones) to companies and private citizens who suffered no losses in the tragedy. Of how legal cavils were exploited to assign petty cash to those who lost all: home, love and even memories.
- It's the story of how those same mechanisms that brought to the tragedy were re-proposed in the aftermath, humiliating the weak and the victims, favoring the un-grieving who could bring themselves forward to claim a piece of the pie.
The Vajont's aftermath is a typical Italian tale that has not by mistake been overlooked by the media.
"What took place after the Vajont was even worst than the tragedy, more scandalous and painful for those of us who survived" stated many.
- It was the media that started the Vajont's second chapter. As soon as the next morning, on October 10th, 1963 when Italy awoke reading on the national papers the news that only took place a few hours before. The role of the Italian press was fundamental. While foreign headings (New York Times, The Times, Le Monde etc.), were very careful in telling what actually took place, large attention received the inquiry on the "L'Unità" of Tina Merlin, Italy deployed the most prominent figures of journalism (among others Indro Montanelli) to chase any doubt: what took place was a natural disaster for which man had no responsibility. The survivors that demanded justice were fomented by "communist jackals" who speculated on the pain and on the dead.
Who pointed the finger at the Sade-Enel, who stated names and surnames was "held for public contempt". There was only one lesson to be learned from that night. As the Christian Democratic weekly "La Discussione" clearly wrote: "Why did they die? That night, a mysterious love scheme took place in that valley". Same as saying: what took place was divine will, so cross yourselves and forget.
But while in the in the meantime, the survivors are ever growingly described as drunken and lazy, they began to prefer to be quiet rather than release statements, some saw the Vajont as an occasion that could not have been passed. Giovanni Leone, former Council President arrived at the scene of the tragedy after some days. «Waiting for him with me was the deputy Major of Longarone, Terenzio Arduini, who had lost both his son and his parents» tells Bruno Ambrosi, RAI reporter «Desperately, he said: "President, we demand justice!". And Leone solemny answered, after taking his hand "And justice you shall have!".
Unfortunately, soon after that the Leone government fell and he became the Head of the Lawyers panel of Sade-Enel, the counterpart». There was business in the air and Leone grabbed the ball.
He was very active and finally achieved his task. He found larger and smaller clauses in the Codes that allowed the non reimbursement of surviving parents of approx. 600 victims (ex art. 4 of the civil codes on Simultaneous Deaths).
In 1968 and 1969, the survivors were contacted by the lawyers (united in a syndicate set up also by Enel) for the reimbursements.«You, the survivors, cannot state any claim since there are no responsibilities. Therefore, it would be best for you to accept what we offer today, or you will get nothing at all».The miserly offer was the following: ITL 1.5 million ) for dead parents (if the survivor was a minor and 1 million if he was of mature age), ITL 800,000  for in-living brothers and ITL 600,000  for non in-living brothers. The clauses found by Leone did not give reimbursement claim rights for lost nephews, grandparents or uncles even if in-living. Some, for the loss of 7 relatives and a destroyed house received only ITL 6 million  of that time, approx. € 45,000 of 2005.
Almost all of the survivors signed the Transaction. The lawyers received ITL 5 million  for each statement signed, which was much more than what most received for their grief. Another fruitful trade was left to attorneys, notary and accountants ad concerned the sale of the licenses. This business started the economy of all the Triveneto area. 
The so-called "Vajont Law" (357/1964) established that every citizen of the disaster area holding a license (commercial, handy craft or industrial) at the time of the tragedy had the right to a 20% non-returnable contribution to restart the activity, an 80% mortgage at lower-than-market rates for 15 years (at times when inflation peaked up to 15%) besides tax relief for ten years.
Many other VIDEOS (italian soundtrack) at:
The principle was not wrong, those who lost their activities received the de facto acknowledgement to a reimbursement claim. But the law was not made to aid those who used to sell strings, needles and ice cream along the streets. The law pushed itself beyond; it stated that who could not, or did not want, to re-open their old activities had the right to sell their license and the buyer would receive the same rights on condition that said activity was opened in a certain basin, which turned then out to be the entire Triveneto area, and here's what happened.
Many quick acting brokers, went to license holders offering few ITL's for their licenses (rarely more than 50,000 ) to purchase them. Also in this case, the brokers received ITL 5 million as a prize for each purchased license. Their money came from large and small enterprises, rarely of the neighborhood, that purchased through them the various licenses. Obviously they had no interest in informing the selling party of what they were losing by signing that piece of paper. And so, for a license paid ITL 10,000 , some companies received financings for billions for decades to come. In fact, said law foresaw continuous re-financings for the companies in the Triveneto area, owner of the licenses.
The entire list of licenses relieved and re-activated is public. Here are some examples: Giacomo Solari, Longarone: trader of timber, sold his license to the company "Industrie Meccaniche" from Alano di Piave, a foundry that receives, for the re-activation, former ITL 1,125,208,609  of the time.The law left much room for these lawful "speculations" with the money destined for the government's financial measures. The idea behind the last was the following: transform the catastrophe in a positive event for the region's entrepreneurial scene. The Vajont was a true fortune for the industrial basin of the area. The emergencies, the people's psychological, economic and cultural needs, the lust for justice were considered disturbing since they distracted economic, financial and legal resources from the final goal of the measure: the industrial development of that slice of Northern Italy that was a little left behind.
Fedele Antonio, shoe maker of Longarone, sold to "la Tegola Inglese" (appropriately opened in 1966) based in Trichiana, which builds concrete tiles and receives over ITL 200 million .
Obviously, even the most prestigious companies in Veneto grab the occasion to come forward.
The heirs of Mario Celso, who died in the tragedy, sell his license to the company "Zanussi Mel", which builds compressors in the framework of the Zanussi group, which receives 3 billion ITL  for the re-activation.
«While the devastated areas still lacked bread and milk" as wrote Davide Lajolo, representative in his address to the Parliament, "the prefect arranged visits by government staff and, while surviving town counselors of all parties requested, with understandable emotion and spirit, prompt assistance for the population and an exemplary punishment for those responsible, dared to call that "a rotten mess."»
FRAUD AND CORRUPTION
(one of four video, italian soundtrack, 2008, october)The law allowed therefore fruitful business but this was not enough, some turned to foul play to take part to the "banquet". Judges, town directors, corrupted technicians lined up to receive financings and other "gifts" foreseen by the law. In 1980, in Pordenone, a trial saw 14 persons indicted for corruption, falsehood and fraud.
Among them was Aldo Romanet, an accountant from Pordenone among the last to see Calvi before he left the country. The post Vajont history is not free from tales of missing funds, at-the-time billions, gathered through the solidarity of Italians and donors from the world over. For money collected successfully and duly accounted (for instance the one started by the newspaper "Il Corriere della Sera"), there are others of which all traces have been lost. No survivor ever saw one Lira of the money gathered for them by the RAI  (ITL 627 million  at the time, equivalent to approx. 14 million Euros of today).
Another business also concerned orphaned children who were amazingly easily given in custody to persons whose sole purpose was to rob them of the reimbursements to which they were entitled for the loss of their parents and their homes.
And then there are the stories of never recovered dead that were never looked for by the various town administration that succeeded one another in the last almost 4 decades. For the last reimbursement paid in 2000 to Longarone for ITL 77 billion  at the time, equivalent to approx. 14 million Euros of today), no one ever moved to fulfill the wish of the survivors, to retrieve the 451 persons that were still reported missing, in the bed of the Maè creek, or were the bodies of the 158 victims from Erto Casso should be resting, (and where in full bad taste and despise for the memory a salami plant was lately founded) was never dug.
Who lost relatives and friends, swept away by that deadly wave in a full moon lite night on the 9th of October 1963 still awaits justice, but when justice arrives too late it can never be just. The only thing that can be done now for them, is at least listen to their stories, striving with them to give dignity to their dead.
During the restructuring of the Fortogna cemetery, the Major of Longarone told one of his relatives that he intended to place flowers on the new tombs of his parents - anonymous badly cut marble headstones without the date of the tragedy - saying that "these are not your dead anymore, they are the victims of Longarone".
This is the last act; the theft of the dead from their families.
Some relatives stopped visiting the cemetery, some started a small revolution taking white stones in various places; where his house stood, at the venue of the landslide, along the Maè creek or the river Piave and built a cross. Who knows if someone will want to remove it since it disturbs the Teutonic order by which the cemetery lost his soul.
One tombstone found in the old cemetery used to read: "Barbarically and cowardly slaughtered by man's light-mindedness and greed, still await vain justice for the infamous deed. Premeditated manslaughter".The man that wanted such a tombstone was Luigino, husband of Giovanna and father of Gianni, Maurizio and Roberto, relatively seven, six and four years old, all dead. And him, the only survivor, interviewed by the public prosecutor that wanted him to remove it. Without fear he stated "Who touches it is a dead man... This tombstone must stand here forever!"
Luigino died after 60 years due to a cancer; his tombstone, removed from the new cemetery, is now part of those uncomfortable memories that have been removed.
The Major Mr Pierluigi De Cesero, 37, said he wants to place them somewhere in another part of the cemetery along with the others but cemetery was completed years ago and there is no trace of them. Maybe place far enough for them has not yet been found. A place to hide the shame that was, that IS forever, the Vajont.
Please sign the PETITIONWhat took place and still takes place at the Vajont repeats itself every time there are victims that have been left alone, all over the world, after an earthquake, a flood, a tidal wave. It is right to get moved by a tragedy but is also right to remember and to keep following through the entire story: months, years and even decades after that. Subscribing the public petition is a way to support not only the survivors, but also justice.
Because in democracy, we all are in-volved.
Please, subscribe and/or comment the petition HERE: http://www.petitiononline.com/vajont05/
(NOTE: the project *ended* in 2007, June. But this endorsement goes ON indefinitely on THE WEB!)
[ italian pages]
- Informations: ../scuse/indice.html
- Longarone's Vajont Survivors Committee website: http://www.sopravvissutivajont.org
Report online (dossier 2003, by war reporter L. Vastano): ../vastano/indice.html
Other resources/updates (italian): my ...BANNED site (banned & sued, 'naturly', by local mafia/administration - acting since december, 1964 - of Longarone)
SETAF. 101th Squadron operations at Vajont (from shot # 67). Photo courtesy (!) of Pentagon. Never seen before, in my knowledge.