Italy's Berlusconi to spend night in intensive care
(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 26, 2022 Italy’s Forza Italia party leader Senator Silvio Berlusconi looks on at The Senate, ahead of a confidence vote for Italy's new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at Madama Palace (Palazzo Madama) in Rome on October 26, 2022. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was in intensive care on Wednesday for heart problems, a member of his entourage told AFP. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)
(AFP) - Italian ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, a dominant player in his nation's politics for decades, was on Wednesday set to spend the night in intensive care after being admitted to a cardiac unit for reported respiratory problems.
The 86-year-old media mogul and senator, who has been in and out of the hospital in recent years, was earlier visited by close family members at Milan's San Raffaele Hospital.
"He's stable, he's a rock," Berlusconi's brother Paolo told journalists as he left the hospital.
"He'll pull through", he said, adding that the magnate's family was feeling "upbeat".
Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said Berlusconi was in intensive care "because of a problem concerning an unresolved infection. But he is talking".
Berlusconi was rushed to hospital after complaining of breathing difficulties, Italian media reported.
He was set to stay in overnight, a source told AFP.
The billionaire leader of the right-wing Forza Italia party, Berlusconi spent four days last month at the same hospital for what Italian news reports called heart issues, before being discharged last Thursday.
"I have already started working again... ready and determined to commit myself, as I have always done, to the country I love", he said in a message posted on social networks Friday.
And on Sunday, he posted a photo of himself grinning in front of a vast lawn of tulips in his villa in Arcore, in northern Italy.
- 'Forza Silvio!' -
After dominating Italian politics for decades, the "Cavaliere" as he is widely known in Italy, now appears physically diminished on the rare occasions he is seen in public.
Long gone are the days of his infamous erotic "bunga bunga" parties with young starlets, which he has always insisted were nothing more than elegant dinners.
Forza Italia is a member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's right-wing coalition government, although the party attracts only about 10 percent of voters.
Meloni tweeted her "sincere and affectionate wish for a speedy recovery", while Matteo Salvini, whose League party is also a member of the coalition, tweeted "Forza Silvio, Italy is waiting for you!"
Berlusconi was in hospital for 11 days for Covid-related pneumonia in September 2020, after contracting the virus while on holiday in Sardinia. He described it as "perhaps the most difficult ordeal of my life.
The following year, Covid-related complications caused a series of hospital stays.
The one-time cruise ship crooner, who served as prime minister three times after entering politics in 1994, had open heart surgery in 2016 and surgery on his intestine three years later.
- Friends, showgirls -
Berlusconi won a seat in Italy's Senate during general elections in September, nine years after he was kicked out from the upper house of parliament following a conviction for tax fraud.
He said he would act as a political fatherly figure to Meloni, but has made headlines instead for his refusal to cut ties with longtime friend Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Berlusconi entered politics in 1994 and for millions of Italians he represented a golden age of the Italian economy and the self-made man.
He has held a soft spot in many Italians' hearts since then, despite a series of sex scandals and court cases that threatened to tarnish his image.
In his most high-profile case, Berlusconi was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2013 for paying for sex with Karima El-Mahroug, known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer".
It was later overturned after the judge said there was reasonable doubt that he knew she was underage.
He celebrated his latest legal victory in February, when he was acquitted of bribing witnesses to lie about his parties, after arguing that he showered the starlets with money and gifts out of pure generosity.
© Agence France-Presse