Mafia threats against local politicians rising

Italy's local councils are increasingly being intimidated by the mafia and other criminals, a new Senate investigation has found.

Mafia threats against local politicians rising
The Senate commission found 132 people working for or linked to local government were murdered over the past 40 years. Bullet photo: Shutterstock

There were 1,265 acts of intimidation in the 15 months to April 2014, recorded in a Senate report presented on Thursday.

Discussing the findings on Thursday, Senator Doris Lo Moro said such incidents were on the increase across Italy.

“Since the start of the year [2013] hundreds and hundreds of acts of intimidation have been recorded,” she told journalists in Rome, with cases ranging in severity from insults to murders.

Lo Moro presided over the Italian government’s first parliamentary commission dedicated to investigating the phenomenon, finding that eight percent of local councils faced intimidation.

Government workers worst affected were in Sicily, where 211 acts of intimidation were recorded, followed by Puglia (163), Calabria (155) and Sardinia (136).

While southern Italy and the islands accounted for 62.6 percent of intimidation cases, the central and northern regions were by no means safe havens.

Ninety-three cases were recorded in Milan’s Lombardy region, 78 in Lazio, home to the Italian capital, and 56 in Tuscany.

Mayors were frequently the victims, accounting for 35 percent of cases, while other local government workers and occasionally their families faced intimidation.

Taking a broader look at the phenomenon, the Senate commission found 132 people working for or linked to local government have been murdered over the past 40 years.

The majority of killings – 73 percent – took place in Calabria, Campania and Sicily; the regions which are home to Italy’s three main mafias.

Although the government has offered security to some staff, with 341 protection measures active in local councils in July 2014, Lo Moro said more needs to be done.

While describing Italy’s anti-mafia legislation as “very advanced”, the senator said the capacity to apply such laws was challenging and many acts of intimidation were wrongly treated as petty crimes.

“Burning a mayor’s car is a classic, it’s the most recurring damage; it’s considered damage to personal property, so there’s no response,” Lo Moro said.

Such individual cases should instead be treated as crimes against the broader community and the state which the mayor represent, she said.

The Senate commission has now requested lawmakers change the criminal code, in order to make it easier to tackle the widespread phenomenon of intimidation.  

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Italy’s president calls for ‘full truth’ on anniversary of Bologna bombing

President Sergio Mattarella said on Tuesday it was the state's duty to shed more light on the 1980 bombing of Bologna's train station, on the 42nd anniversary of the attack that killed 85 people and injured 200.

Italy's president calls for 'full truth' on anniversary of Bologna bombing

On August 2nd 1980, a bomb exploded in the railway station’s waiting room, causing devastation on an unprecedented scale.

Five members of terrorist groups were later convicted in relation to the bombing, the worst episode in Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’ period of political violence in the 1970s and 80s.

Most recently, in 2020, a former member of the far-right Armed Revolutionary Nucleus (NAR) was sentenced to life imprisonment for providing logistical support to those who carried out the attack.

But suspicions remain of cover-ups and the involvement of “deviant elements” within the nation’s security services, reported Italian news agency Ansa.

READ ALSO: Bologna massacre: 40 years on, questions remain over Italy’s deadliest postwar terror attack

“The bomb that killed people who happened to be at the station on that morning 42 years ago still reverberates with violence in the depths of the country’s conscience,” Mattarella said in a speech marking the anniversary on Tuesday.

“It was the act of cowardly men of unequalled inhumanity, one of the most terrible of the history of the Italian Republic.

A train compartment at Bologna station pictured following the 1980 bombing attributed to the neo-fascist terrorist organization Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari.

“It was a terrorist attack that sought to destabilise democratic institutions and sow fear, hitting ordinary citizens going about their everyday tasks.

“On the day of the anniversary our thoughts go, above all, to the relatives forced to suffer the greatest pain.

“The neo-fascist nature of the massacre has been established in court and further steps have been made to unveil the cover-ups and those who ordered the attack in order to comply with the Republic’s duty to seek the full truth”.

The bombing remains Western Europe’s fourth deadliest postwar terror attack, and one of the most devastating in Italy’s history.