Announcing the government's plan to rid Italy’s beaches of illegal street pedlars, Alfano used the expression “vu' cumprà”, an expression which imitates the pronunciation of African immigrants of “vuoi comprare?” (“would you like to buy?”), which they use to sell goods.
“Italians are tired of being insulted by hordes of ‘vu' comprà’. We must raze this counterfeiting to the ground,” Alfano is reported to have said on Monday, according to La Stampa.
Alfano, who was also Deputy Prime Minister until February in Mario Monti’s government, made the comment during the launch of his “spiagge sicure” (safe beaches) plan to crack down on illegal sales of counterfeit products on Italian beaches.
The expression was also reused in a tweet by the Minister:
“Hard fight against ‘vu’ comprà’ and the counterfeiting of Italian products: ‘I live without fabrication. I buy authentically’… Let’s defend #MadeInItaly”, Alfano tweeted.
Lotta dura contro i"vu' cumpra'"e la contraffazione delle merci italiane:"Vivo senza... falsità.Io compro... vero"difendiamo il #MadeInItaly— Angelino Alfano (@angealfa) August 11, 2014
Alfano’s comments were immediately criticized as racist by politicians from Italy’s Democratic Party (PD).
“Immigrant pedlars are vu’ comprà for Alfano? Zero tolerance for expressions with racist meanings [before zero tolerance] for sales on beaches,” tweeted Dario Ginefra, an MP for the centre-left party.
Comparisons were immediately drawn between the minister and the newly appointed the president of Italy’s football federation (FIGC) Carlo Tavecchio who sparked a furore when he referred to African players as "banana eaters" during a speech saying Italy should enforce stringent requirements for non-European Union players.
“Is Alfano really talking about vu’ cumprà? Alfano in the Interior Ministry is like Tavecchio in the FIGC,” tweeted Cecilia D’Elia of the left-wing Sinistra Ecologia Libertà party.