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Protests in Italy as Jair Bolsonaro given honorary citizenship

A northern Italian town conferred honorary citizenship on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday, although demonstrators made their feelings about him known.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro arrives in Anguillara Veneta, northeast Italy, to be awarded honorary citizenship.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro arrives in Anguillara Veneta, northeast Italy, on November 1st to be awarded honorary citizenship. Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI/AFP

The right-wing Brazilian leader skipped climate talks in Glasgow to receive the accolade in the northeastern town of Anguillara Veneta, following his showing at the G20 summit in Rome this weekend at which he received  a frosty reception from other world leaders.

The city council decided to honour Bolsonaro with mayor Alessandra Buoso, a member of the far-right League party, saying the town wished to “reward the welcome that migrants from Anguillara Veneta have received in Brazil”.

But the move caused a stir in Italy and about 200 people protested against honouring a leader who has faced international criticism for his policies on the environment in the wake of massive deforestation in Brazil.

READ ALSO: G20 agrees on 1.5 degree climate change target in Rome

Bolsonaro is also under fire at home after a Brazilian Senate commission endorsed a report seeking to indict him on nine counts, including crimes against humanity, over his Covid response. 

About 606,000 Brazilians have died from Covid-19, meaning the country’s death toll is second only to the United States.

Protesters carried banners reading “Bolsonaro out” and “No citizenship for dictators”, while one read “Anguillara loves Brazil but not Bolsonaro”.

The Democratic Party (PD) in Veneto said the decision to honour Bolsonaro was “a disgrace” and  a “shame for Italy”.

Protests as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro receive honorary citizenship in Anguillara Veneta. Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI/AFP

In nearby Padua, police fired water cannon to keep some 500 demonstrators at bay outside the San Antonio basilica which Bolsonaro had earlier visited while the venue was closed off to the general public.

Monday’s ceremony took place at an elegant 17th century villa with Bolsonaro guest of honour at a long dinner to which around 200 people were invited.

About a thousand people from the Italian town, which now has a population of 4,200, fled poverty to emigrate to Brazil at the end of the 19th century, among them Bolsonaro’s grandfather.

“I am moved to be here. It’s from here that my grandparents left” for Brazil, Bolsonaro told the gathering.

“I am pleased to be surrounded by good people, the AGI news agency quoted him as saying.

“It was God’s will that I become president of Brazil… We are doing excellent work which is certainly recognised by the people but not by the mass media,” he went on.

Italian media reported that hosting Bolsonaro had cost the town’s council about €10,000.

On Tuesday Bolsonaro will be accompanied on a visit to Pistoia, Tuscany, by League leader Matteo Salvini, before leaving for Brazil in the afternoon.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

An Italian centre-left election pact broke down on Sunday just days after it was formed, leaving the path to power clear for the hard-right coalition.

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

The alliance between Italian centre-left parties was left in disarray on Sunday night, potentially meaning a landslide victory for the hard-right coalition at early general elections in September.

The leader of the centrist Azione party withdrew support for the left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party (PD) just five days after the two joined forces, saying it could not work with left-wingers brought in to boost the alliance.

Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione, withdrew his support on Sunday after PD made another pact with smaller left-wing parties including the radical Sinistra Italiana, and new green party Europa Verde.

“You cannot explain (to voters) that to defend the constitution you make a pact with people you know you will never govern with,” Calenda told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The news was greeted with jubilation by hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who tweeted: “On the left chaos and everyone against everyone!”

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neofascist Brothers of Italy party (FdI) mocked a “new twist in the soap opera of the centre-left.”

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

Analyists predict the centre-left split could hand the right-wing bloc a landslide victory at the election on September 25th, with Meloni tipped to become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni has a strong alliance with Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Letta is struggling to bring together the disparate  progressive parties.

The PD is neck and neck with Brothers of Italy in the latest opinion polls, but even in partnership with Azione, the group most recently polled at 33.6 percent, compared with 46.4 percent for the right.

Political commentators said the only hope PD has now of posing a credible threat to the right-wing alliance would be by partnering with the Five Star Movement.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

However, Letta has repeatedly said this is out of the question, as he blames M5S for triggering the political crisis that brought down Mario Draghi’s broad coalition government.

“Either PD eats its hat and seeks alliance with M5S to defeat the right-wing coalition, or it’s hard to see how the right can possibly lose the forthcoming election,” Dr Daniele Albertazzi, a politics professor at the University of Surrey in England, tweeted on Sunday.

Early elections were called after Draghi resigned in late July. His government currently remains in place in a caretaker role.

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