ROME (AP) — Gianroberto Casaleggio, considered the ideological brains and technical guru behind Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, died Tuesday. He was 61.
Comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, who along with Casaleggio founded the party to shake up Italy's political establishment and saw it become the main opposition force in the country, announced his death Tuesday in a blog post.
Grillo cited a letter Casaleggio wrote to Italian daily Corriere della Sera in 2012 in which he said he was an Italian citizen who merely wanted "to better the society in which he lives."
Ever since the 5-Star Movement burst on Italy's political scene as an upstart, grassroots, Euro-skeptic party, it has been a thorn in the side of governments left and right, blasting mainstream politicians as the root of Italy's ills. While Grillo was the public face of the movement, Casaleggio worked behind the scenes, often hidden from the cameras by his long mop of curly hair.
Casaleggio's Milan-based consulting firm curated Grillo's enormously popular blog, which has been a go-to place for Italians looking for a more direct form of democracy.
Casaleggio's death in Milan, which the ANSA news agency said followed a brain edema in 2014, prompted an outpouring of condolences from across Italy's political establishment and anti-establishment parties elsewhere.
Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party, called Casaleggio the "genius" behind the 5-Star Movement and "an inspiration for the new politics."
In a eulogy posted on Grillo's blog, Nobel Prize-winning writer Dario Fo said Casaleggio had an "extraordinary" intellect, such that Fo was humbled by his own shortcomings in comparison. "Listen, tell me now what you don't know, so that I'm no longer embarrassed," Fo recalled telling Casaleggio once.
The funeral was scheduled for April 14, Grillo tweeted.
This corrects that the day of death to Tuesday sted Thursday, as reported in an earlier version.