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Top Camorra boss arrested near Naples PDF Print E-mail
Nov 19, 2010 at 04:03 PM
Antonio Iovine, captured but still smiling
Italian police and justice officials are celebrating this week following the arrest Wednesday of Antonio Iovine, a Neapolitan underworld boss who had been on Italy's "most wanted" list for 14 years. The capture of Iovine took place in Casal di Principe, a town outside Naples that has been the headquarters of the Casalesi clan of the Camorra, the subject of Italian author Roberto Saviano's bestselling "Gomorrah", which two years ago was made into a film. It was considered a major breakthrough by law enforcement here, leaving only two top bosses - Matteo Messina Denaro, affiliated with Sicily's Cosa Nostra, and another "camorrista", Michele Zagaria. still on Italy's Most Wanted list,
Going, going....but not yet gone. PDF Print E-mail
Nov 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Image After months of sex scandals, fruitless political manoeuvring and vicious name- calling, Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi's center-right government is now close to collapse. After the resignation today of four members of the Italian cabinet belonging to two dissident factions, Italy's 62nd postwar government may be in its final days. But  whether or not this means that Berlusconi's political career is over is a query that one should be careful about answering. Currently in hot water because of a series of political and personal messes largely of his own making, Berlusconi, who has dominated politics here since 1994, can still (unfortunately) not be counted out. Two factors work to his advantage: the lack of any real and charismatic opposition political leader who can challenge him, and a generally amoral public opinion which, I am sorry to say, tends to put financial and political success way ahead of either good government or ethics.


Back to the future PDF Print E-mail
Oct 25, 2010 at 06:07 PM
ImageRemember the 2008 garbage crisis in Naples that Silvio Berlusconi "miraculously" succeeded in solving? Well, the garbage is back, some 2400 tons of it currently cramming the streets of Naples, and although Berlusconi again is promising a miracle, it is clear this problem is not going to go away soon. On Saturday, the European Union's Enviroment Minister Janez Potocnik, of Slovenia, warned Italy it may face sanctions if it doesn't  resolve the crisis. Last March, the European Court of Justice ruled that Italy had contravened EU rules by having failed to set up an adequate waste management system.
UPDATE:Silvio does it again…but government’s fate still shaky. PDF Print E-mail
Sep 30, 2010 at 07:47 PM
ImageSo. After six weeks of focusing on a confidence vote that was, perhaps, maybe, forse, peut-etre, to shed some light on the fate of Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government, politicians and pundits are really no wiser than they were before boring us all to death. After addressing the Chamber of Deputies yesterday afternoon, Berlusconi pulled the rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, winning a majority of 342 votes. But, guess what? As soon as the vote was over, it immediately became clear that the deciding votes were cast by the MPs backing Mr. Berlusconi's former ally, Gianfranco Fini, the Speaker of the House who after a series of increasingly violent disagreements, last July pulled out of Berlusconi's party.

What this means is that at the moment at least, the Finiani (who this week will form their own, new party) hold the fate of the government in their hands. And so it is no clearer than before how much longer the Berlusconi government can last. Indeed, most analysts here believe it is now almost certain that early elections will have to be held before the Prime Minister's mandate formally expires in 2013. So what else is new?

Happy Birthday, Silvio PDF Print E-mail
Sep 29, 2010 at 10:00 AM

ImageWill he or won?t he? Of course he a vote of confidence. Today is the day Italian politicians have been awaiting for over a month, holding their breath on over the outcome of a parliamentary vote which could decide the fate of the present government and, as a consequence, whether or not Italians will be called to the polls sometime soon, and that is well before the natural end of the legislature in 2013. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said his government will continue in office only if he wins more than the requisite 316 votes on a confidence vote scheduled for today, September 29th, which by the way coincides with his 74th birthday. I write about this not because I really care (since the center-left opposition is currently a real mess, in a vote he would only win again), but becuse Italian newspapers, TV and related political pundits have talked about nothing else over the last six weeks with the result that most of us simply can't stand it any more.


Northern League leader "insults" Rome PDF Print E-mail
Sep 28, 2010 at 10:22 PM
Bossi in another elegant moment
It's an old joke dating back centuries. Ever notice the S.P.Q.R. initials on Rome's city buildings, monuments and even modern manhole covers? It comes from the Latin for Senatus, Populusque Romanus (The Senate and Roman People) used at the time of the Republic of Rome in ancient times as an official signature of the government, quoted in speeches by orators such as Cicero and found then, and later, on Roman coins, documents, monuments and standards.

The quip, often repeated by those who don't like Romans, says that the real significance of the initials translates out to "Sono Porci Questi Romani" ("These Romans Are Pigs"). But when a non-Roman political leader, in this case the controversial  and often crude Northern League chief, Umberto Bossi, uses the joke at a public rally, some people (in Rome) get really hot under the collar.

"This time, Bossi has really gone too far", Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said on Tuesday. Alemanno belongs to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, which is closely allied to the Northern League, but that didn't keep him from getting furious. And he is not alone. Today, front page of the Rome daily, Il Messaggero bore a banner headline shouting: "Bossi insults Rome; It's a (political) storm"

Bossi, whose party is now the country's third largest, has frequently expressed anti-Roman sentiment, referring to the capital of the country as "Roma ladra", basically meaning it is a city of thieves (a sentiment many non-Northern League Italians seem to share). But referring to his Roman countrymen as pigs to many seemed way over the line.

The sometimes secessionist, sometimes federalist, sometimes xenophobe leader made his remarks at a beauty contest for 'Miss Padania, the name the League has given to the Italian North as if it were a separate country. He was restating, among other things, the League's opposition to a planned Rome Formula One Grand Prix which would allegedly clash with the historic Italian GP at Monza, and the party's belief that certain key ministries should be moved north from Rome, seen as a seedbed of corruption. Renata Polverini, the centre-right governor of Lazio, the region around Rome, said "Rome and its citizens deserve more respect". But Berlusconi, also known for tasteless quips, said it was only a harmless joke.

Berlusconi facing parliamentary challenge PDF Print E-mail
Aug 04, 2010 at 08:48 AM

ImageIf you read the papers, or listen to the TV news broadcasts, it would seem as if new elections or, at the very least, a cabinet re-shuffle, are inevitable in Italy. But are they?We will know more later today after the results of a no-confidence vote that the opposition has called against a member of the Berlusconi government. But although Silvio Berlusconi appears to be in a more vulnerable position than at any time since his party's victory at the polls in 2008, I wouldn't be counting him out any time soon. 

The no-confidence vote comes just a few days after a break between Berlusconi and his once chief ally, Gianfranco Fini, until 2009 the leader of  the right-wing Alleanza Nazionale and currently speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of parliament.  (See "Il Divorzio: It's final!) Fini's new party , Future and Freedom for Italy, has joined with several other centrist groups that will abstain on the vote, an act that some view as an act of cowardice. But it gives Fini, who at the moment is under attack for the unclear origins of an apartment in Montecarlo where his girlfriend's younger brother is now living,  a chance to guage the current strenth of Berlusconi's now reduced parliamentary majority. He knows well his own status is risky - he can count on a total of only 43 MPs - and in fact has pledged loyalty to the government, asking AN exponents in the cabinet to vote with the Berlusconi government.

Still, today's events may affect political developments in Italy in the near future. Should Berlusconi lose today's vote (something I believe is not likely), he may decide to ask for new elections. Otherwise, tune in at the end of August, after millions of Italians, including members of the parliament and of the Government, will be back from their summer vacations. 

Il Divorzo: It's final! PDF Print E-mail
Jul 31, 2010 at 04:47 PM


After months of very boring to- ing and fro-ing, the divorce between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his once principle ally, former Alleanza Nazionale chief Gianfranco Fini, currently Italy's Speaker of the House (presidente della Camera dei Deputati), now appears to be final and Italians, most of whom are understandably much more interested in a) their summer vacations, b) job opportunities and taxes in a struggling economy and 3) whether or not the national soccer team will ever recover from its embarrassing performance in South Africa, are now being told to worry about whether the government will fall or whether Berlusconi may call for early elections. If you read the papers, or listen to the TV news broadcasts, it would seem as if new elections or, at the very least, a cabinet re-shuffle, are inevitable. But are they? For although Silvio Berlusconi appears to be in a more vulnerable position than at any time since his party's victory at the polls in 2008, I wouldn't be counting him out any time soon. 

300 arrested in nationwide sweep against Calabrian criminals PDF Print E-mail
Jul 14, 2010 at 07:14 PM
Domenico Oppedisano
On Tuesday, Italian police and carabinieri arrested some 300 people in Calabria and Milan in what police said was one of the biggest operations ever against the Calabrian criminal organization known as the 'Ndrangheta. More than 3,000 police were involved in the sweep, during which offices and apartments in both the southern Italian region and in parts of the Italian north.

More than 3,000 law enforcement officers raided premises in Calabria and three northern Italian regions, Liguria, Piedmont and Lombardy, arresting people from all walks of life on charges ranging from murder to drug and arms trafficking, extortion and loan sharking "and other serious crimes," police said. Among those arrested were several low-level politicians including the head of the local health authority in Pavia, Carlo Antonio Chiriaco, under investigation for vote-buying as is Pavia city councilman, Pietro Trivi. A former Milanese provincial councilman, Antonio Oliviero was also arrested for corruption as were four Carabinieri police officers stationed in Rho, north of Milan. (more)

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