Last week, Italian member of parliament Marco Milanese evaded arrest because his colleagues in Italy’s parliament voted against a request by magistrates to have him handcuffed and taken away.Despite being indicted in relation to mafia related offences, this week, Italy’s Agriculture Minister Saversio Romano survived a no-confidence motion in Italy’s parliament yesterday. After the results of the vote were in, Romano was duly hugged by Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Many, including this blogger, were disgusted by the outcome of the vote.
The appointment of Saverio Romano as Italy’s Agriculture Minister was controversial in view of allegations that he’d been working to assist organised crime in southern Italy. Romano denies wrongdoing.
Romano had also been a close associate of one Salvatore “Totò” Cuffaro, an ex-president of the mafia infested region of Sicily. Cuffaro is currently doing time for colluding with the mafia.
While working with ex-president of Sicily Cuffaro, Romano attended a meeting with mafia boss Angelo Siino. Siino is nicknamed the mafia’s minister for public works, incidentally. The meeting took place way back in the very early 90s and concerned support for the 1991 regional elections in Sicily.
Italy’s Agriculture Minister is also under investigation for bribery and a couple of mafia turncoats have mentioned Romano’s name too. It has to be said that evidence provided by mafia turncoats is not always reliable and it can hardly be argued that ex-mafia members are men of good character.
Still, investigators, who were on the point of dropping the mafia collusion charges Romano faced at one point, would rather like to have a chat with Romano about his contacts and acquaintances. Indeed they will. In the meantime though, Italy keeps a minister of dubious integrity.
In normal times, a minister who is suspected of mafia connections could, possibly, be tolerated. But these are not normal times. The Berlusconi government is scandal ridden and Italy is suffering from a distinct lack of credibility at international level. Not only this, but new Berlusconi party secretary and former justice minister Angelino Alfano recently claimed in a Berlusconi party re-launch speech that “honesty” would be one of the party’s watchwords.
Even more surprising is that Italy’s mafia busting interior minister Roberto Maroni lent his support to Romano. Hopefully he knows something we don’t. If this is the case, perhaps he would not mind telling us.
Once again, as with the Milanese case I wrote about last week, Italy’s Berlusconi government is sending out the wrong messages to both Italians and to those who might have been considering investing in Italy.
When will Italy wake up? Probably when it’s far too late.
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