Tag Archives: camorra

Mayor closes historical center to cars – angers organized crime

The limited traffic zone in the Naples historical center

Anthony M. Quattrone

The Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, is resolutely proceeding with sweeping reforms aiming at making Naples a “normal” city.  On 22 September 2011, his city government implemented a new limited traffic zone(the acronym “ZTL” appears in the press and on the traffic signs), effectively closing automotive traffic to all non-residents in the historical city center from 07:30 to 18:00 daily. The purpose of the ZTL is to preserve the historical center, cut down on carbon emissions, improve the flow of traffic, reduce noise, eliminate illegal parking, and curb the illegal utilization of traffic lanes reserved for public transportation.  The full implementation of the ZTL in Naples will take effect at the end of October, when closed circuit television systems for monitoring the traffic flow in and out of the concerned areas and electronic governed barriers should be in place.

The immediate reaction by citizens was mixed.  While the overwhelming majority of persons interviewed by the press appeared to support the Mayor’s decision, a small group of inhabitants and merchants of the Cavone area near Piazza Dante held a demonstration on the evening of 22 September, where some protesters overturned garbage bins and blocked bus and taxi traffic for several hours.  Mayor de Magistris reacted to the protest stating that he was not going to let anyone intimidate him and that it was obvious that the decisions of the City had “touched some old accumulated mucky interests”, suggesting possible organized crime involvement in the protest.  Giuseppe Narducci, the city official responsible for security, has no doubts that “the Camorra organized the raid”. According to Francesco Nicodemo, a spokesperson for the Naples provincial federation of the Democratic Party, “it is shameful that a limited traffic zone can be boycotted by a camorra boss.  The honest Neapolitans, who are the overwhelming majority of the citizens, have once again had to suffer at the hands of the clans.”  For Nicodemo, because organized crime is challenging the State, “the civilized part of Naples, the institutions, the police forces, the parties, the associations, and all honest citizens cannot surrender: they must be even more united”.

The day after the demonstration, a group of merchants from the Piazza Dante area condemned the violence but asked the Mayor to reconsider the implementation of the new traffic limits, stating that their businesses would be heavily damaged by the traffic limits.  According to the merchants, they were set to lose about 50 percent of their business because it would be expensive and inconvenient for customers to reach the limited traffic zone for shopping.  The merchants accuse the administration of not involving all stakeholders in the decision making process and that it is underestimating the damage to the local economy.

The city in proceeding with its implementation of the limited traffic zone reinforcing local police patrols on 24 hour shifts and by adding a new bus service, number 55, which makes a circular round on the periphery of the traffic limited zone ensuring that travellers can reach all areas of the limited zone and that they can easily connect with other public transportation stations and stops.

See the map of the limited traffic zone for the historical center

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Filed under Luigi de Magistris Mayor "for" Naples, Organized crime, social innovation and change

Berlusconi promises again to rid Naples of garbage

Anthony M. Quattrone

A child walks through uncollected garbage on his way back from school in the historic Spanish district of Naples on November 22, 2010 AFP Photo / Roberto Salomone

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised on 27 November 2010 that in two weeks’ time Naples will be garbage free.  It’s the second time in the last two months that he has promised to remove garbage from the streets of Naples.  Regrettably, he did not keep the one he made on 22 October 2010, and now the streets of Naples have accumulated 2,700 metric tons of uncollected garbage (i.e., about 6 million pounds).

Most people had reason to believe Berlusconi in October, because in 2008, after winning the national elections, he got the garbage off the streets, as promised during the election campaign.  On 21 May 2008, Berlusconi held his first cabinet meeting in Naples and ten months later, on 26 March 2009, he returned to inaugurate the new incinerator in Acerra, where most of the garbage produced by the former capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was to be treated.  During the inauguration ceremony in Acerra, Berlusconi declared that the garbage emergency in Naples was over.  Unfortunately, the Acerra plant, which is composed of three independent processing units, has never worked at full capacity.

Berlusconi’s new promise to rid the city of the garbage sitting on the streets appears to be a “mission impossible” to many observers due to a combination of technical and political issues.

On the technical side, the garbage sitting on the streets can be picked up in a couple of days, but the problem is where to put it.  The Acerra incinerator is not working at full capacity, existing landfills are almost full, the digging of new landfills are at a standstill due to “not-in-my-backyard” protests by people living in the affected communities, and very few Regional governments have expressed their willingness to process any garbage from Campania.  The Italian Army is sending 400 troops with equipment to assist in picking up the garbage and in securing designated storage depots and landfills.  Several cities have sent compactor garbage trucks to assist in picking up and processing the garbage.  The towns of Avellino and Caserta have agreed to take approximately 250 tons of garbage per day from Naples in exchange of being allowed to use the Acerra incinerator.

On the political side, Berlusconi is facing three main political problems in solving the garbage crisis. Continue reading

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Filed under Garbage crisis, Organized crime, Political parties

Book review – “Terroni: All that was done to ensure that the Italians of the south would become ‘meridionali’ (southerners)” by Pino Aprile

The history of the south of Italy, as seen from those who were “liberated” by the north

Anthony M. Quattrone

Pino Aprile’s “Terroni: All that was done to ensure that the Italians of the south would become meridionali (southerners)”, published by Edizioni Piemme, is one of those books that could cause a revolution, albeit a peaceful one, if read by enough people at the same time. It could become “the spark that starts the fire” by igniting a sentiment of unity among southern Italians, who are discovering that something is missing in mainstream history books informing how Italy was united 150 years ago. Aprile explains, through a series of anecdotes and historical events, how the south of Italy has ended up becoming the “minority” of the country, relegated to a backward condition with respect to the north of the nation and to the rest of Europe, when 150 years earlier, Naples was, in Aprile’s account, behind only Paris and London on many counts. The book’s title is a political statement. He uses the word “terroni”, which is a derogatory term used by northern Italians to describe those from the south, and its root is “terra”, that is, land. It can be translated generally to mean peasant, with a negative connotation. In the subtitle Aprile uses the Italian word “meridionali”, which can be translated literally as “southerners”, and it also has a pejorative connotation, rather than a geographical one.

Aprile very ably connects the events of 150 years ago to today, either in terms of similarity between those of the past and today’s events, or showing the actual causal relationship between yesterday’s events and today’s. He recounts how the Piedmontese government had set up the first concentration camps in 1860 and 1861, where thousands of Neapolitan and other southern Italian soldiers and irregular combatants were deported and left to die within a few years, preceding by approximately 80 years the notorious Nazi concentration camps in Europe. The comparison between the Nazis and the Piedmontese soldiers is continued also when Aprile describes how the towns of Pontelandolfo and Casalduni were destroyed by the Bersaglieri infantry troops in August 1861, in the same way that the Nazis destroyed Marzabotto in September 1944. In both cases, the civilian population was massacred in response to the action of irregular combatants against occupation troops. Aprile also draws a comparison between the torture used by the American military in Abu Grahid and what the Piedmontese did in the years following the unification of Italy. His analogies between past events and today’s allow the reader to immediately relate to events that took place 150 years ago. Read the whole article

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Garbage crisis and organized crime

Anthony M. Quattrone

Garbage in Pozzuoli, January 2008. Photo by Anthony M. Quattrone.

The connection between Neapolitan organized crime, known as “camorra” and politicians in Naples and other cities in the Campania Region has been at the center of the political debate over the past years.  The debate has become more passionate following the request made by a public prosecutor to arrest politician Nicola Cosentino.  Earlier this week, the Office of the Public Prosecutor sent to the Chamber of Deputies a request to arrest Cosentino, who is an undersecretary of the ministry of the economy of the Berlusconi government and a Member of Parliament.  Cosentino cannot be arrested without the consent of the Chamber of Deputies.  He is accused of providing outside support to the illegal activities of the camorra in relation to the collection, transportation, and disposal of garbage in the Campania Region.  The camorra-politicians-garbage disposal paradigm has come to the attention of magistrates over the course of the past fifteen years, but no major politician has ever been arrested.

The garbage disposal crisis and its link to organized crime has been officially recognized by the Italian state for the past fifteen years.  On 11 February 1994, the Italian government, headed by Arzeglio Ciampi, declared a state of emergency in Naples and nominated a commissioner with special powers to deal with the disposal of garbage.  Since then, eleven commissioners have been nominated by different national and regional governments, which, in the meantime, have alternated between center left and center right majorities.  The head of the civil protection, two prefects, and two presidents of the Campania region, one from the center right, Antonio Rastrelli, and one from the center left, Antonio Bassolino, took turns as commissioners.  In the end, by the spring of 2008, the Naples garbage crisis hit the international media, placing Naples on the front pages of virtually every major newspaper in the world.  The images of Naples covered with tons of garbage eventually led to millions of euro in missed income, especially in the tourism industry.

The camorra was able to become central in the garbage disposal system by controlling the dumping grounds, and by infiltrating the garbage collection and hauling system.  The role of the commissioner was intended to oppose the power of the camorra in the collection, transportation, and disposal of garbage.  The commissioner was given special powers by the central government in Rome, to include the authorization to award contracts, without competition, to face an emergency.

The camorra had infiltrated the garbage disposal system by digging and managing illegal dumps.  As older dumps used by the city filled up, the camorra was able to direct the dumping towards its own grounds, allegedly controlling also the companies contracted to transport the collected garbage to the dumps.  Organized crime had the will and the power to create dumps virtually in any location of the Region where power shovels and other mechanical gear could operate.

Several prosecutors in Naples have been investigating the link between construction companies allegedly belonging to organized crime and local politicians.  The magistrates are focusing their attention on those contracts that allegedly have been awarded to companies controlled by organized crime.  These camorra-run companies have been able to underbid competitors because they are able to contain costs by using illegal dumping grounds.  Organized crime is also accused of managing the illegal transportation and disposal of toxic and dangerous waste produced in northern Italy and illegally dumped in Campania.  According to a local regional environmental agency, there are dozens of illegal dumps in Campania, and many contain toxic waste, which is polluting water springs, agricultural lands, and pastures.  Studies are underway to determine the effects of the toxic waste on the health of the population living in the proximity of the illegal dumps.

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Filed under Garbage crisis, Organized crime, Political parties