95. Intelligence Information Cable1

[document number not declassified]


  • Italy


  • 20 February-9 March 1964


  • Views and Comments of Italian Carabinieri and Intelligence Officers Concerning the Italian Political-Economic Scene


  • [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]


  • [2 document numbers not declassified]


  • [2 lines of source text not declassified]

The following remarks were made to one or another of sources by the Italian officers indicated below during the course of a round of business and social calls which sources made to these officers. Although the conversation was friendly and informal, the comments were delivered with some degree of seriousness [1 line of source text not declassified].

This report reflects a facet of opinion held by a segment of Italians and thus appears to complement Department of State incoming telegram no. 5541, dated 8 March 1964,2 from the United States Embassy in Rome, Italy, which presents an excellent review of the current situation. We feel that the views expressed by the Italian officers are sincere and that they believe them to be true; nevertheless, these views are in line with their traditionally rightist and conservative views and reflect reaction that is probably more subjective than objective.

General Giovanni De Lorenzo, Chief of the Italian Carabinieri Corps, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], expressed to source his concern over what he regards as a progressively deteriorating [Page 186] political-economic situation in Italy. He stated that he had been fairly optimistic in January 1964, but that he no longer felt that way. He observed that the interplay of political and economic factors, combined with what he described as a completely supine government, was leading the government toward a condition of increasing discrimination, strikes, lockouts, and mass demonstrations.
Volunteering at the outset that it was not a matter of a coup d’etat, De Lorenzo hastened to add that the time had come for responsible leaders of the country to make responsible decisions. The Moro government, he said, could not go on as it had been, because, if it did, the country would go Communist by default, and he and people like him would become “the usual refugees.” Now, he said, is the time to show firmness, while the forces of public order—especially the Carabinieri—are still able to command the situation. If there were to be demonstrators in the piazza, let them come and be dealt with firmly, even if such action should produce casualties.
The present Moro government, according to de Lorenzo, must give way to a government headed by Giovanni Leone (former Premier) or Cesare Merzagora (President of the Senate), or Paolo Emilio Taviani (Minister of the Interior), or to a “Government of National Salvation,” or even to a revitalized Moro government with backbone and a definite line of action. But it must be made clear to Moro and other leaders that this is a time for decision.
To this end, De Lorenzo said, he had an appointment on [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to see Antonio Segni, President of Italy, with whom he intended to talk in very similar terms. He also said that he had an appointment on [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to talk to Merzagora for the same purpose. He mentioned no one else by name.
When sounded out concerning the attitude of the military, de Lorenzo replied that they had always avoided involvement in such matters; he seemed to imply that, while the military might share his views, they were not involving themselves. As regards the large industrialists, he indicated their concern and frustrations, but he cited none by name or otherwise.
De Lorenzo went on to describe himself as normally being a patient man, but said his own patience was wearing thin. He had had numerous contacts recently in various quarters, he indicated, and had found considerable support for his point of view.
[4 lines of source text not declassified]
As being of possible significance in relation to the above, the following remarks which reflect concern on the part of several senior members of the combined Armed Forces Intelligence Service (SIFAR) are also noted: [Page 187]
On [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] said he was depressed by a discussion he had had the previous day with Umberto Ortolani, President of the Istituto Nazionale per le Case Degli Impiegati Dello Stato (INCIS; National Institute for Houses of State Employees). Ortolani painted a dark picture of the Italian economic situation, predicted that, if things continued as they were, some 25,000 construction workers would be laid off in the next couple of months and this would result in public demonstrations. Ortolani described Giovanni Pieraccini (Minister of Public Works) as an able and honest man, but said that his hands were tied by those around him; therefore Pieraccini could do little about the present economic crisis. The SIFAR officer stated that he had found confirmation of Ortolani’s views in other financial and commercial sectors. For example, the Olivetti firm was trying to get Giuseppe Pella (former Minister of the Budget) to take over as president, in an effort to inspire more confidence in investors. This SIFAR officer felt that the present government would fall before long, perhaps within the next couple of months, and that it would be just as well for it to fall now as later.
On [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], source met briefly Colonel Renzo Rocca, Chief of SIFAR’s Economic and Industrial Intelligence Office, who had just emerged from a discussion of the current situation with General Egidio Viggiani, Chief of SIFAR. Rocca, who in the past has regularly blamed the flight of Italian capital on the lack of confidence in the center-left government, said that the situation is definitely not good, and it is not getting any better, and that certain changes (unspecified) are essential. [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]
Viggiani expressed himself as being in general agreement with De Lorenzo, but not quite to the gloomy extent of the latter. He said that the situation is actually not bad at present, but that the potential danger is great. He felt that, in order to head off the threat of a serious deterioration, forceful economic and financial measures are called for; otherwise, the country would reach the point of collapse—which could benefit only the Communists who would be ready to exploit the resultant chaos to install a Communist system. He agreed with De Lorenzo that a new government was called for, and thought that such a government should include technicians like Donato Menichella (Administrative Councilor of the Association for the Development of Industry in the South) for finance, some important industrialist for commerce, and so on. While such a government should include political figures, they should be only those of demonstrated competence. As for an adequate chief of government, he acknowledged that this was the biggest problem of all. He found Moro timorous and vacillating and charged him with playing into Communist hands in his dealings with Italian General Confederation of Labor (CGIL) leaders on labor matters. [Page 188] He observed that Moro had given recently a pitiful performance on television and considered him much too weak for the job. He said that names mentioned for leadership of the government include: Taviani, Leone, and Merzagora, but felt that none of them would be a good choice. Randolfo Pacciardi, who has recently broken away from the Italian Republican Party, had no following; Emilio Colombo (Minister of the Treasury) was too young. For him, the most capable man was Amintore Fanfani (former Premier) whom he regards as definitely and strongly anti-Communist, notwithstanding the opportunistic traits he has shown in the past. But, regardless of who might head it, a new government is needed in the near future to take vigorous steps to restore confidence in the economy, adopting austerity measures where necessary, reducing the outflow of capital, and perhaps obtaining foreign loans. There must be no further sliding by the government toward positions of increased strength for the Communists; and, if the latter attempt to force the issue through demonstrations, they should be stopped now, even at the cost of a few casualties. Viggiani felt that the temper of the people is such that, instead of creating martyrs and leading to an even more tense situation, this (i.e., stopping of demonstrations at a cost of a few casualties) would have a settling effect on the public at large. He agreed with De Lorenzo that the forces of order are now able to control the situation but that, with further slippage, they might no longer be able to do so.
Field dissem: none.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Italy, Vol. 1. Secret; Priority; No Foreign Dissem; Controlled Dissem; No Dissem Abroad; Background Use Only. Sent to Army Staff Command, DIA, State Department, and NSA.
  2. Reference is to telegram 2384 from Rome, March 8, which outlined the economic problems facing the Moro government. (Ibid.)