Reaction by Naples Mayor engenders pride in citizenry to fight off racism from Northern League.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is flanked on his right by Stefano Calderoli, the outspoken Northern League minister who would like to use a flamethrower in Naples to resolve the garbage crisis, and on his left by the equally outspoken Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League and also a minister in the government. Both Calderoli and Bossi regularly make statements against the people of the south of Italy. (Photo from “Il Mattino” online, 3 July 2011).
Anthony M. Quattrone
The mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, is aiming at making Naples totally autonomous from the central government in terms of waste collection and management after that the Berlusconi government failed to come to the city’s help with an emergency decree which would have allowed Naples to export garbage to other regions. In Italy, only special waste can be moved from one region to another, with the permission of the governor of each region, to be processed in specialized plants. Ordinary waste cannot be transferred unless a special temporary decree is issued by the central government. Naples needs a place to dump or process its garbage until the end of the year, when the door-to-door waste collection system and new compost sites are scheduled to be in place.
On 30 June 2011, the Berlusconi government issued a decree with numerous caveats which make the transfer of ordinary waste from Campania to other regions slow and difficult. The decree also emphasized that all Neapolitan waste should be kept in southern Italian regions. The Berlusconi government was unable to approve a better decree because of the opposition of the Northern League ministers who hold the prime minister under check because their votes are needed to keep his government alive.
The Neapolitan daily, “Il Mattino” reported on 1 July 2011, criticism expressed by the Italian President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, and by the Cardinal of Naples, Crescenzio Sepe. The President noted that the decree basically fails to provide the city with tools to climb out of the trash emergency. Cardinal Sepe stated that the decree offends the dignity of Naples and does not respect the rights of its citizens. In an interview, Berlusconi defended himself stating that he does not hold the 51% of the seats in Parliament, so he must make compromises with the Northern League. Racist comments from Northern League politicians and some journalists have abounded during the past days. Stefano Calderoli, a Northern League minister, announced that he is willing to work on the problems in Naples by using a flamethrower, while journalist Oscar Giannino looks forward to an explosion on the part of Mount Vesuvius for Naples to become a civilized society.
Resentment in Naples against the Northern League has now reached its all-time peak, with several restaurants and stores placing notices that they refuse to serve members of the Northern League. Several consumer groups sprung up over the Internet requesting followers to boycott northern Italian products and to “buy south”. Even the moderate Stefano Caldoro, the President of the Campania Region and member of Berlusconi’s center right coalition, is looking for retaliatory measures against the north. Caldoro is now seeking to conduct a special inventory regarding all toxic waste that Campania imports from the north of Italy. The Party of the South, a small formation which is part of the original coalition that has supported Luigi de Magistris’ bid for mayor, concerned about the de facto alliance created between the Northern League and organized crime, has called for a “democratic presidium” to be formed, to include the national unions and the associations representing entrepreneurs to assist the Mayor in informing citizens on the way ahead and in getting their participation in resolving the crisis, bottom-up. The Party has also called on the Mayor to seek the assistance of Cardinal Sepe to inform citizens through the Catholic Church’s parish system regarding what City Hall is asking all citizens to do.
In the 15 days since Luigi de Magistris has appointed his city government, Naples is well on the way to collecting remaining garbage on the streets, placing garbage in temporary transition sites. As of this morning, Naples has reduced garbage sitting on the ground from 2,500 tons to approximately 1,300, with the center of the city basically clean, while several neighborhoods in the periphery are still in critical condition and should be tackled over the next couple of days. Naples produces approximately 1250 tons per day. The independent suburban towns of Pozzuoli, Quarto, and Giugliano are still submerged with garbage, and they were hoping that the governmental decree would also provide them with relief. They are now looking for help from the Provincial Government president, Luigi Cesaro, who is a member of Belursconi’s political party, and from the governor of the Campania Region, Caldoro.
In Naples, the city-owned garbage collection company, Asia, is playing a major role in turning the situation around. The mayor hired on 16 June 2011 a new president for the company, Raphael Rossi, a 35 year old expert in waste collection, processing, and recycling, who earned notoriety last year for refusing a very high bribe in Turin when he had opposed the purchase of useless waste processing equipment with tax payer’s money. Rossi’s exemplary behavior led to the arrest of those involved in the scam. The mayor has also has placed all garbage collection workers on 24-hour shifts and he has decided to recapitalize Asia with 43 million euro. The influx of capital will be essential for ensuring that suppliers are paid and that the new door-to-door collection system will be in place in September for an additional 200 thousand citizens. Currently, 146 thousand Neapolitans are served with door-to-door waste collection, and their neighborhoods have not suffered during the current garbage crises.
Mayor de Magistris, deputy mayor, Tommaso Sodano, Asia president Rossi, and Raffaele del Giudice, a very well known ecologist who currently serves as counselor with Asia, are constantly in the streets speaking with citizens and encouraging Asia workers in meeting objectives. The mayor’s personal visit to one of the garbage truck dispatch centers at 6 a.m. on 28 June 2011 paid off with a renewed sense of direction and commitment on the part of the workers. Del Giudice noted that the waste collection employees are working beyond the call of duty. In several neighborhoods, citizens who are appreciating the new spirit displayed by the Asia workers have independently formed groups to assist the garbage collection workers with loading trucks with large size items. In several parts of town, long lines have formed to dump recyclable items in the mobile ecological centers that have been dispatched throughout the city in those neighborhoods that are not yet covered by the door-to-door garbage collection system.
Mayor de Magistris and Governor Caldoro are in touch with six Regions that have expressed an interest in importing garbage from the Campania Region. If agreements are made quickly, Naples and Campania will be able to implement garbage separation processes without needing to be concerned about mountains of garbage sitting on the streets in the heat of the summer. If the agreements fail, or if the Northern League and organized crime are able to put up additional roadblocks, Naples and Campania will spend one of the worst summers in their history.