Italian Ex-Leader Berlusconi Hospitalized in ICU, but Alert

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
Forza Italia party leader Silvio Berlusconi at he Senate, in Rome, on Oct. 26, 2022.

ROME (AP) — Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was hospitalized Wednesday in intensive care because of a problem related to a previous infection, but was alert and speaking, Italy’s foreign minister said.

“He’s stable. He’s a rock,” Berlusconi’s brother Paolo said after visiting him Wednesday afternoon at Milan’s San Raffaele hospital.

The 86-year-old three-time premier was admitted to the ICU because of an “unresolved problem” related to a previous infection, said Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who is also a leader of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.

Berlusconi has had a series of health problems in recent years, most significantly recovering from COVID-19 in 2020. He told reporters after being discharged from a 10-day hospital stay then that disease had been “insidious” and was the most dangerous challenge he had ever faced.

He has had a pacemaker for years, underwent heart surgery to replace an aortic valve in 2016 and has overcome prostate cancer. In January 2022 he was admitted for a reported urinary tract infection.

Berlusconi had been to San Raffaele, where his personal physician works, for a regular checkup for several days just last week. In a March 31 tweet after he returned home, Berlusconi thanked “all those who wanted to send a thought or sign of affection in these days.”

He said he was already back at work “ready and determined to commit myself as I’ve always done to the country I love.”

Messages wishing him a speedy recovery poured in from across the political spectrum. “Forza Silvio,” tweeted Premier Giorgia Meloni, alluding to the soccer chant that Berlusconi turned into the name of his political party.

Berlusconi, a media mogul-turned politician, made his latest political comeback in September general elections, winning a Senate seat a decade after being banned from holding public office over a tax fraud conviction. That election brought a hard-right-led government to power, with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party a junior member of a government headed by Meloni.

Berlusconi remains at the helm of Forza Italia, the center-right party he created when he jumped into politics in the early 1990s, though the day-to-day running of the party has been left to underlings.

Most recently he has made waves with a handful of comments about his old friend Russian President Vladimir Putin, boasting that the two had exchanged birthday greetings and blaming Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the war. Berlusconi’s comments have irked the pro-Ukraine Meloni government, though just this week Tajani insisted that Berlusconi is committed to a peaceful solution to the war.

In January 2022, Berlusconi withdrew his name from consideration to be Italy’s president.