FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Catherine Stearns
ACCLAIMED CHAMPION OF SICILIAN REFORM TO VISIT U.S.
MAYOR PROMOTES INTERNATIONAL DEMOCRACY EDUCATION, SHARES STORY OF PALERMO EXPERIENCE
Washington, D.C. -- Leoluca Orlando, the celebrated Mayor of Palermo, Italy, will visit four U.S. cities Feb. 16 through 26 under the auspices of the United States Information Agency's International Visitor Program.
Mayor Orlando became Sicily's leading figure by forming a majority coalition drawn from all parts of the political spectrum and organizing his constituents and their communities to take an unprecedented public stand against organized crime. His anti-Mafia campaign resulted in a civic renewal in Sicily that has made him an international hero and brought about the renaissance of his city. (The Mayor's biography follows.)
Mayor Orlando will visit New York, Feb. 16 through 18; Los Angeles, Feb. 18 through 21; San Diego, Feb. 21 through 23, and Washington, D.C., Feb. 23 through 26. (His schedule is available upon request.)
Mayor Orlando will discuss his successful battle to decrease organized crime in Palermo. He will meet with high-level local and federal officials, including a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Members of Congress, and prominent members of the Italian-American community. He will meet also with U.S. educators to discuss civic education in the American school system. In Washington, Mayor Orlando will address the "International Conference on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity Among Justice and Security Officials," which Vice President Gore will host at the Department of State Feb. 24 through 26. Also, Mayor Orlando will be featured at a National Press Club Morning Newsmaker Feb. 25 at 9:00 a.m.
Mayor Orlando aims to generate the interest of high-level U.S. officials in attending the CIVITAS@Palermo World Congress June 18 through 22, 1999, which will showcase the Palermo experience and draw world attention to civic education for promoting democracy and a culture of lawfulness. The international event -- convening scholars, civic education practitioners, entertainers, and politicians -- is designed to secure strong, visible support for civic education from the cultural, financial, and political worlds and to energize the international movement for civic education, providing participants with advocacy tools they can use in their countries.
CIVITAS, an international consortium for strengthening citizenship and civic education, is an unprecedented linkage of non-governmental organizations, schools, academic institutions, government agencies and key leaders to raise the visibility of civic education, highlight its importance to democracy, and mobilize the support of the international community. CIVITAS has advocated democracy education globally, with key regional efforts in Latin America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and East Central Europe. For more information, see the Civnet Web site: http://civnet.org.
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The United States Information Agency, headed by Acting Director Penn Kemble, is an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch that explains and supports U.S. foreign policy and national security interests abroad through a wide range of information programs. The Agency promotes mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through a series of educational and cultural exchange activities.
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LEOLUCA ORLANDO, MAYOR OF PALERMO
Leoluca Orlando was born in Palermo in 1947. He is married to Milly Lupo and has two daughters, Leila and Eleonora, and one grandchild. Orlando is a lawyer and a professor of Public Law at the University of Palermo.
After receiving his university degree, Orlando continued his studies in Heidelberg, Germany, where he became proficient in German. He served as an international consultant for OCSE in Paris and between 1978 and 1980 was the legal consultant to Piersanti Mattarella, President of the Sicilian Region, who was killed by the mafia in 1980. In the same year, Orlando was elected to the City Council of Palermo for the Christian Democratic Party and in 1985 he was appointed Mayor for the first time.
During the following four years, the so-called "Spring of Palermo," Orlando led a majority that combined political movements of the left with others of the center, with complete freedom from the national centers of power that usually controlled all city administrations. This experience was entirely new in Italy and quickly gained national attention. During his administration Orlando also denounced the hegemony of organized crime in Palermo and promoted the growth of an "antimafia" movement in Sicily, which united thousands of associations, clubs, intellectuals that decided to say "no" to the mafia and to the power of illegality in the city. Orlando denounced the danger represented by the economic power of the mafia and by the alliance of the organized crime with political and economic lobbies.
In 1989, on the occasion of the elections for the European Parliament, Orlando refused to run as a candidate side by side with Salvo Lima, leader of the palermitan section of the Giulio Andreotti political stream in the Christian Democratic Party. Lima was widely viewed as connected with organized crime. "Either me or Lima" was the message of Orlando to his party, that nevertheless preferred Lima.
During the city council elections in Palermo in 1990, despite efforts by Andreotti to derail Orlando's place on the ballot, he was elected by 71,000 electors, an historic record. Galvanized by this result, Orlando tried to form a new city administration free from all the old powers, yet his own party did not support this effort. In 1991, convinced that Italian politics needed to change, Orlando left the Christian Democratic Party and founded a new political movement: "La Rete-The Network," which presented itself as a barrier against corruption and crime within the political parties. The movement's chief political aim was to bring back bring morality to Italian politics, through the so called "trasversalità," or, the participation of all the positive forces of the different political parties regardless of their political position. In this period Orlando denounced the so- called "P.a.m.m.," the criminal connection between the sectors of politics, economic power, the Mafia and Freemasonry.
In 1991 Orlando was elected to the Assemblea Regionale Siciliana, or Sicilian Regional Parliament, as a candidate of La Rete.
In 1993 the law to elect the Mayors in Italy was changed. Citizens could choose directly the candidate they wanted in office. Orlando was elected Mayor of Palermo by 75% of the voters, a result that, to date, no other candidate in Italy has achieved. Orlando initiated dramatic reforms to banish the economic interests of the organized crime from the city and pave the way for a new future.
In 1994 Orlando was elected to the European Parliament (EP), where he is currently Vice-President of the Committee in favor of the entry of Malta in the European union and a member of the Committee for Safety and Disarmament. As a member of the EP, he works to gain a more prominent role for the Mediterranean region within the European Union. Recently he was confirmed in his appointment as Member of the European Committee for Interior Affairs and was asked to take part in the Committee for Regional Affairs. In November 1997 Leoluca Orlando was confirmed as Mayor of Palermo at the first ballot with over 58% of the votes.
The reform movement in Palermo continues today, with internationally renowned success. Recently, the BBC defined Palermo an "exciting and safe" city, a description that ten years ago no one in the capital of Sicily would have dreamed of.