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Change is Sweeping Italy

The Communist and Green Left in Italy has won a resounding victory against the politics as usual of the Berlusconi government and the center-left in Italy sweeping the Mayoral races in Naples, Milan and Cagliari. This coupled with the Supreme court’s decision to allow the vote on the referendum to ban nuclear power from Italy overriding the Berlusconi government’s attempt to eliminate it, has had people celebrating in the streets and singing the Communist Partisan’s anthem Bella Ciao! in piazza’s up and down the peninsula this week.

Italy is in crisis with skyrocketing unemployment among young people, stagnant wages, a censured national media and a public education system that has been slashed by the right wing government. The center left PD has offered little to contrast the Berlusconi government’s neoliberal policies. Naples is still suffering from widespread criminality and a Garbage crisis that has garnered international attention with landfills filled to capacity, a malfunctioning incinerator, little to no recycling and nowhere to put the trash. Mounds of rotting garbage have littered the streets of this sprawling Metropolis for months after Berlusconi’s election promises to resolve the garbage crisis 3 years back. Milan, considered to be the financial capital of Italy, has faced gridlock and ethnic tension with a growing muslim population and overwhelming problem of traffic gridlock and smog that has been exasperated by the intolerant policies of Berlusconi’s handpicked mayor Letizia Moratti since 1996. With the Global and European economic crisis, Milan’s role as economic center has been greatly diminished as well, with a gloomy economic outlook on the horizon and a looming bank crisis. Cagliari is the capital city on the island of Sardinia. Here a regional referendum to ban Nuclear energy on the island three weeks back won with a resounding 98% of the vote. Cagliari had been ruled for almost 20 years by a right wing administration.

This is the backdrop for a militarized Italy that hosts the central command for NATO’s war on Libya in the Gulf of Naples with US and NATO military bases dotting the landscape from North to South. There is almost constant traffic of U.S. nuclear submarines and nuclear armed aircraft carriers in and out of Italy’s waters. Sardinia especially suffers from the weight of US military presence. The town of Quirra located near Europe and NATO’s largest weapons testing facility in the southeastern part of Sardinia is plagued by cancerous tumors and leukemia that have recently been linked to the military testing at the facility. A growing number of Italians have had enough of this colonial like presence that threatens the health of the citizens and these treasured ecosystems.

Now there is hope for change and a large and ever growing part of the population is in motion to ensure that this change is realized. Luigi de Magistris an independent allied with the Communist, Green and Italians of Values party in Naples, of Giuliano Pisapia the underdog Communist, human rights activist and former lawyer for the family of Carlo Giuliani — who was killed by the Italian police at the G8 protest in Genova in July of 2001– in Milan, and Massimo Zedda a young and dynamic candidate from Nichi Vendola’s Left Ecology and Freedom party swept the elections in these three key cities sending a clear signal to both the ruling center right and opposition center-left political establishment. The Italian people are fed up with politics as usual and want real change and real democracy now!

Each of these three new mayors were shunned by the leadership of the opposition Democratic Party and won despite the fact that they were not the preferred candidates of the leadership of the center left. Despite this fact and the reality that a growing number of voters are turning away from the Democratic Party, its leadership has tried to claim the victory as their own. Now with the Supreme Court’s ruling to allow the referendum on Nuclear Power to remain on the ballot to be voted on the 12th and 13th of June, the Democrats have jumped on what seems an unstoppable train and have promised a full fledged effort to turn out voters for what could be a historic victory for Democracy in Italy. Last Sunday in a daring action Greenpeace activists unfurled a huge antinuclear banner from the roof of Rome’s Olympic Stadium during the Italian championship soccer match between Inter-Milan and Palermo. The banner reads from Milan to Palermo let’s stop nuclear power. Anti-nuke and No to Privatized Water demonstrations are taking place continuously all over the country.

There are 3 major issues on the referendum ballot to be voted on the 12th and 13th of June and the supporters of the referendums will be voting SI four times to say No. There will be two Yes votes to say No to the privatization of water resources and to return water resources that have already been privatized back to public ownership. There will be one Yes vote to say No to a return to Nuclear Power once and for all. And there will be one Yes vote to Say No to the law called Legitimate Impediment, which excuses politicians and in particular Silvio Berlusconi, from appearing in court to face criminal accusations while serving in office. There is a mass mobilization underway to get out the vote that was schedule intentionally at the beginning of the summer holidays to dissuade participation. Around 27 million voters — 50% +1 — will have to participate in the referendum election for it to be considered valid by Italian law.

The three new mayors in Naples, Milan and Cagliari will have there work cut out for them as further austerity measures and calls for privatization come down from the G8 leadership. They will not only be battling Berlusconi and the racist Northern League’s obstructionism, but the manipulative democratic charade put forth by Obama at the helm of the worlds economic powers, a nuclearized corporate America and the U.S. military that dominates Europe and Italy. It is the hope of the people here that Luigi De Magistris, Giuliano Pisapia and Massimo Zedda will really work to represent and implement the systemic changes that are needed to truly contrast the neoliberal policies represented by the destructive and outdated center of politics as usual. On the 12th and 13th of June the Italian people can make history and send a clear message to the rest of the world by voting 4 Si’s to say NO! and help these newly elected mayors begin to fulfill their promises.

 

 

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Michael Leonardi lives in Toledo, Ohio and can be reached at mikeleonardi@hotmail.com

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