Anthony M. Quattrone
The Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, is continuing his uphill battle to rid the city of thousands of tons of garbage sitting on the streets and producing an unbearable smell. There are two major obstacles on his path. The first is the opposition by the Northern League members of the Italian central government headed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to allow Naples and the Campania Region to transfer garbage to waste processing plants in other Regions willing to receive the trash. The second obstacle, which is less visible but equally disruptive, is the apparent hold that organized crime appears to have on waste removal and processing operations in Campania.
Berlusconi’s government was expected to issue an executive order on 1 June 2011 providing relief to Naples and the Campania Region on the garbage front. Opposition by four Northern League ministers, Umberto Bossi, Roberto Maroni, Roberto Calderoli, and Luca Zaia, has blocked the government from taking any action to face the emergency in Naples. This has caused significant backlash within Berlusconi’s party, where southern deputies and senators are distancing themselves from the government in Rome. On 20 June 2011, the governor of the Campania Region, Stefano Caldoro, who was elected with the decisive support of Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition last year, told “La Repubblica” that he was tired of the constant blackmail put up by the Northern League. Other center-right coalition members were forced to take a stand condemning the anti-southern rhetoric coming from the North.
During the weekend, when the Northern League held its annual meet in Pontida (Bergamo), party leaders and ministers currently serving in Berlusconi’s government shouted slogans, such as “Free Padania” and “Independent Padania”, and in several cases chanted “secession” with the crowd. The Northern League is also pressing to move several ministries from Rome to cities in the north, in an attempt to break the “Rome-centric” state, possibly triggering a quicker move towards the type of federalism that the Northern League has been hoping for. The existence and viability of Silvio Berlusconi government is hinged on the vital support provided by the Northern League in Parliament.
While Berlusconi attempts to resolve conflict within his own government, the mayor of Naples is facing the internal battle with what seems to be a strong grip that organized crime appears to have on the waste collection and processing system. Over the past couple of days, every time that the mayor appeared to be in control of the waste collection system, a new roadblock would come into play, ranging from someone instigating crowds to burn garbage or to dup trash in the middle of the street, to contracted companies keeping their trucks idle in garages. When the president of the Province of Naples, Luigi Cesaro, also a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s political party, finally identified waste collection sites for temporary layover, the mayors of the towns hosting them issued ordinances blocking garbage trucks from hauling waste, while demonstrators, in the time being, put several garbage trucks on fire.
On 20 June 2011, the mayor of Naples, the president of the Region, the president of the Province met with the Prefect of Naples, who represents the central government, to work out a solution, albeit another temporary one. Today, a local agreement, brokered by the president of the Campania Region, Stefano Caldoro, has allowed that five Campania provinces (Avellino, Benevento, Caserta, Naples, and Salerno) make their temporary layover sites available for garbage sitting on the streets of Naples and its suburbs. This should provide immediate relief to Naples, while the new mayor gets on with his plan to increase garbage separation and modernizing the waste collection system. As this new attempt to resolve the crisis moves along, Mayor de Magistris has warned that it is imperative to keep watch on organized crime and on all of those who wish to stop the winds of change from sweeping Naples clean.