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|Palermo|  Cesare Manzella

Born:  December 18, 1897 - Cinisi

Dead:  April 26, 1963 - Cinisi











Cesare Manzella was a traditional Mafia capo, who sat on the first Sicilian Mafia Commission. He was the head of the Mafia family in Cinisi, a small seaside town near the Punta Raisi Airport. As the airport was in their territory it was an invaluable asset for the import and export of contraband, including narcotics. His deputy was Gaetano Badalamenti.

After a stay in the United States, where he had spent many years organising gambling houses in Chicago, Manzella settled back in Cinisi after he was expelled by US authorities in 1947. In Cinisi he owned an extensive citrus plantation. Manzella was described as a “violent and bullying individual”, by the local Carabinieri. “He is cunning and has a well-developed organisational ability, which enables him to enjoy an undisputed ascendancy over local criminals and mafiosi.” Not only in Cinisi, but also in the surrounding communities Carini, Torretta, Terrasini, Partinico, Borgetto and Camporeale. He was a member of the first Sicilian Mafia Commission that was established in 1958.

Manzella loved to show off as a benefactor. As he strolled down the narrow streets of Cinisi, wearing his wide-brimmed American-style hat, he would hand out pocketfuls of sweets to orphans and street rascals. He devoted a proportion of his illicit profits to building an orphanage. His charity was rewarded by his election as president of the Azione Cattolica (Catholic Action) in Cinisi.

Manzella was heavily involved in cigarette smuggling and heroin trafficking. He was a protagonist in the First Mafia War. The conflicted erupted over an underweight shipment of heroin. The shipment was financed by Manzella, the Greco cousins (Michele & Salvatore) from Ciaculli and the La Barbera brothers (Angelo & Salvatore) from Palermo Centre. Suspicion fell on Calcedonio Di Pisa, who had collected the heroin for Manzella from the Corsican supplier, Pascal Molinelli, and had organised the transport to Manzella’s partners in New York.

The case was brought before the Mafia Commission, but disagreement on how to handle it, led to a bloody conflict, known as the First Mafia War between the Greco’s, headed by Salvatore Greco, and the La Barbera’s – in particular when Di Pisa was killed on December 26, 1962. Manzella sided with the Greco’s and became the target of the rival faction. Manzella was killed on April 26, 1963, when he was blown to pieces by a car bomb. Pieces of Manzella were found stuck to lemon trees hundreds of meters from the crater were the car had been. He was succeeded by Gaetano Badalamenti as head of the Cinisi Mafia.

Manzella was an uncle by marriage of Giuseppe Impastato, the Anti-mafia activist who was murdered by the Mafia in 1978. Peppino Impastato's Anti-mafia activity might have been triggered by the brutal murder of Manzella, when Peppino was 15 years old. Peppino was traumatized by the event. "Is this really Mafia? If this is Mafia I will fight it for the rest of my life…." On the picture above, Manzella is the second from the left on the picture. Badalamenti is the first on the right.


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