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Gibraltar And Brexit: How EU Referendum Could Rattle The Rock

The British Union Jack flies over Gibraltar
The British Union Jack flies over Gibraltar

GIBRALTAR — There is a troubling side story jutting into the Brexit debate from this tiny British territory at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula.

Madrid-based daily El Mundo reports that in Gibraltar — affectionately known as "the Rock" — locals and the government alike are opposed to "Brexit", a British exit from the European Union, which is up before a national referendum this summer.

The territory, home to a British military base, has been under British control since 1704. Every day, around 10,000 workers cross the border from Spain to work in Gibraltar, which has open borders with Spain thanks to the UK's membership in the EU.

The Rock maintains its own autonomous parliament and fiscal regime, a solution that locals consider the best of both worlds between the UK and Spain, which still holds an outstanding claim to the territory.

But if Gibraltar's 30,000 inhabitants are dragged out of the EU by their compatriots 1,200 miles away — even if they vote to remain in their own local referendum — they will lose the right to free movement across the border to Spain, and trade will become subject to border controls.

"We are more protected within the EU," says Natasha Passano, a local schoolteacher, to El Mundo.

The debate has grown tense as Gibraltarians, known as llanitos, consider the repercussions a vote could have on their lives. "I will vote to remain in the EU," says Daniela Caruana, a pharmacist. "My boyfriend works here but he is from across the border, and we live in Spain because the rent is cheaper there."

Gibraltar's government is a strong supporter of remaining in the union, and Chief Minister Fabian Picardo recently warned that Brexit could rekindle the long-standing diplomatic conflict between Spain and the UK over ownership of the territory. Spanish authorities declared that if Britons were to decide to leave the bloc, the matter of sovereignty would have to be discussed immediately.

When British voters go the polls on June 23rd, they could decide the fate of this centuries-old possession. "I don't think the Spanish would erect a border fence," says a shopkeeper. "But we would be in limbo."

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The Last Boss: Messina Denaro's Death Marks The End Of An Era For The Sicilian Mafia

Eight months after being arrested, following 30 years on the run, Matteo Messina Denaro died Monday. The son of a mobster and successor of Sicily's notorious boss of bosses, he had tried to transform Cosa Nostra into a modern criminal enterprise — with only partial success.

photo of Matteo Messina Denaro

Matteo Messina Denaro after his arrest

Carabinieri handout via ZUMA
La Stampa Staff

Updated Sep. 25, 2023 at 4:45 p.m.


PALERMO — Matteo Messina Denaro, who for more than a decade was the Sicilian Mafia's "boss of bosses," died on Monday in an Italian hospital prison ward. His death came eight months after being captured following decades on the run as a fugitive from justice. His arrest in January 15, 1993, came almost 30 years to the day after Totò Riina, then the undisputed head of the Corleone clan, was captured in Palermo.

Tracing back in time, Messina Denaro began his criminal ascent in 1989, around the first time on record that he was reported for mob association for his participation in the feud between the Accardo and Ingoglia clans.

At the time, Messina Denaro's father, 'don Ciccio', was the Mafia boss in the western Sicilian city of Trapani — and at only 20 years of age, the ambitious young criminal became Totò Riina's protégé. He would go on to help transform Cosa Nostra, tearing it away from the feudal tradition and catapulting it into the world of would-be legitimate business affairs.

For 30 years he managed to evade capture. He had chosen the path of ‘essential communication’: a few short pizzini - small slips of paper used by the Sicilian Mafia for high-level communications - without compromising information by telephone or digital means.

“Never write the name of the person you are addressing," Messina Denaro told his underlings. "Don’t talk in cars because there could be bugs, always discuss in the open and away from telephones. Also, take off your watches.”

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