Silvio Berlusconi, former Prime Minister of Italy, hospitalized

Silvio Berlusconi, who served numerous terms – although not all sequentially – as Italy’s prime minister from 1994-2008, was hospitalized with heart problems Tuesday.

“Silvio Berlusconi had to be admitted into the San Raffaele hospital in Milan due to a ‘heart deficiency,'” hospital spokesman Marta Ammoni said in a statement.

A spokesman for Berlusconi’s political party said that his condition was not life threatening. Berlusconi is 79.

Berlusconi is a giant of Italian life. A self-made billionaire and media tycoon, the former prime minister is deeply controversial.

After a dominant career in communications, Berlusconi turned to politics, founding what would become one of the strongest political parties in Italy after the Cold War: Forza Italia. For most of Italy’s post-war years, its politics were a competition between the Communists and the Christian Democrats. That system, however, ended with the collapse of global communism and revelations of the Christian Democrats’ association with the Mafia in the 1990’s. Forza Italia is considered the successor to Christian Democrats, and Berlusconi has been likewise been linked to the Mafia.

Berlusconi first ascended to his country’s top job in 1994, but was ousted less than a year later. He won again in 2001, but lost the job in 2006. He returned in 2008 and continued to serve until 2011. Berlusconi was considered an American ally who was favorable to the foreign policy goals of President George W. Bush. He made Italian foreign policy more favorable toward Israel.