CANANEIA, Brazil – Some 300 kilometers (185 miles) from Sao Paulo in a house papered with Karl Marx, Picasso and Salvador Dali prints, former leftist guerrilla Cesare Battisti, sentenced in Italy for killing four people, admitted in Brazil that he would never again take part in an armed struggle because it was a disaster.
Battisti, formerly a member of the Armed Proletariat for Communism, a wing of the Red Brigades, interrupted work on his latest novel – inspired by Cananeia, the city where he has lived since early this year – to talk about his possible extradition and the risk that going back to Italy would signify.
“My life would be in danger in Italy. That was the main reason why ex-President Lula signed the decree” granting political asylum, Battisti said in an interview with EFE.
Battisti, sentenced to life imprisonment for killing four people 40 years ago, was referring to a decree signed by former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on his last day in office in 2010, which denied his extradition to Italy and sparked political tension between the two countries.
From Cananeia, where he currently lives in a house loaned him by a friend, the Italian, 62, now awaits a new decision by the Supreme Court on his extradition, though he expressed confidence about the verdict.
The author of several popular crime novels, Battisti said he’s not worried about the upcoming Supreme Court ruling and believes it will be impossible to legally execute his extradition because the time for revoking the decree enacted by Lula ended two years ago, according to the statute of limitations.
Battisti denied slaying the people for which he was sentenced and admits the armed revolt was a mistake, but added that he had no wish to “criticize or judge” the thousands of people who felt it was their mission.
“I shouldn’t have let myself be provoked into taking up arms. It’s easy to look back and repent or criticize what you did, but at the time it seemed the obvious thing to do,” said the Italian, who has a 4-year-old boy from his relationship with a Brazilian woman.
It’s hard, he said, “when you’re 20 years old to see your friends killed by police and then do nothing. It’s easy to be provoked, especially when it’s done on purpose to combat a cultural movement. The only way to end it was to join the armed rebellion. And we fell for it.”
Despite the court ruling hanging over him, Battisti said “I like my life” and “I feel Brazilian. I know nothing about Italy. I’ve had no interest in it from the day I left. Maybe it was a protective instinct, a way to forget.”
While his future is being defined, the Italian is building a new house in Cananeia, where he expects to spend the rest of his life.