Blame the Italians, not Berlusconi: Umberto Eco


June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 10, 2009 at 1:14 PM EDT

Leading Italian author Umberto Eco says don't blame scandal-plagued Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for his country's problems -- blame the Italians themselves.

Writing in the left-wing weekly L'Espresso, out Friday, the respected intellectual lashes out at his fellow Italians who have supported Berlusconi, but also predicts his efforts at convincing them will be useless.

"The Italian problem is not Silvio Berlusconi," the author of "The Name of the Rose" and "Foucault's Pendulum" wrote.

"History... has been brimming over with adventurous men, who were not lacking charisma, who had a restricted sense of state but an extremely broad sense of their own advantage, who wanted to establish their own private power by clambering over parliaments, judiciaries and constitutions.

"Why take it out on these men and not on the society that allowed them to do as they pleased?" He added that Berlusconi was only "going about his own business, so-to-speak."

In an apparent reference to Berlusconi's vast media holdings, the writer wrote that "the majority of Italians accept conflicts of interest."

Berlusconi, who hosted this week's G8 summit in Italy's quake-hit city of L'Aquila, has been hit by a string of recent scandals.

The flamboyant media magnate and billionaire has faced questions over his unexplained relationship with a 17-year-old aspiring model whose coming-of-age party he attended.

That scandal was compounded when explicit photographs emerged of scantily clad guests cavorting at his luxury villa in Sardinia and an investigation into whether the prime minister entertained call girls at his parties.

Berlusconi has also been under fire for a corruption scandal that saw his British tax lawyer convicted for accepting a sizeable bribe in exchange for giving false testimony in a case involving the prime minister's vast media empire.

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