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How Piera Aiello became Italy's 'faceless' lawmaker by challenging the Sicilian mafia

FRANCE 24

Italy’s newly elected parliament convenes on Friday, introducing a host of novices who have pledged to change the country’s politics. Among them is Piera Aiello, the 50-year-old widow of a mafia boss, who has dared to take on the Sicilian mob.

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Marsala, a picturesque port town on the island of Sicily, is where the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement picked up one of its biggest scores in the March 4 general election, claiming 51% of the vote.

But in an area blighted by organised crime, the landmark election followed a surreal campaign that was carried out largely behind closed doors – and with a candidate who was unable to show her face.

“There, that’s our candidate, Piera Aiello!” says Five-Star activist Stefano Palermo, holding up a picture of a campaign meeting, in which the speaker turns her back to the camera. “Of course she can’t be seen properly, not on any photo.”

Aiello, 50, has been described as Italy’s “faceless” candidate. Twenty-seven years ago, when her husband was murdered in front of her, she decided to denounce the mafia crime syndicate. Since then, she has been on a witness protection programme.

"I still live in hiding,” she tells FRANCE 24. “When I do reappear, I know it will be very risky. But in life, one has to take risks."

Click on the player above to watch the report by Natalia Mendoza.

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