December 14, 2011

Italian 'Party of Bankers' Evokes Threats of Violence

Letter bombs, bullets escalate protests against austerity measures

Protestors on Wall Street were mostly peaceful, but in Italy violence is becoming more common. Protestors on Wall Street were mostly peaceful, but in Italy violence is becoming more common.

Prime Minister Mario Monti has his hands full. Not only is he dealing with Italy’s debt crisis, but his efforts to enforce and increase austerity measures in the country, as well as his choices for Cabinet members, referred to by some groups as the “party of bankers,” are escalating public outcry against his government and threatening to return Italy to a violence it thought it left behind late in the last century.

Bloomberg reported that a spate of threats, including letter bombs and bullets sent to public officials, has led to Monti warning against an atmosphere of political violence. On Monday Monti warned, “Threats and intimidations represent strategies of other eras that can’t and mustn’t return.”

But indications are that it might not be so easy to dismiss protests that included a letter bomb sent to an official with Italy’s tax collection agency Equitalia on Dec. 9–the official was wounded when the bomb went off–and bullets sent to Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno and Justice Minister Paola Severino this week. Italian anarchists claimed responsibility for a similar letter bomb intended for Deutsche Bank AG CEO Josef Ackermann on December 8.

Some of the anger stems from Monti’s former position as adviser for Goldman Sachs, and his choices of Cabinet members, which sound like a Who’s Who of Italian banking: Corrado Passera, the country’s development minister, is the former chief executive officer of Italy’s second-biggest bank, Intesa Sanpaolo; Mario Ciaccia, Passera’s deputy, was head of infrastructure at Intesa; and Labor Minister Elsa Fornero sat on Intesa’s board.

Giuseppe Esposito, deputy chairman of Parliament’s Committee for Intelligence, Security Services and State Control, said in the report that the committee would discuss the recent incidents at a meeting in Rome Wednesday. He said the panel would question Gianni De Gennaro, the head of Italy’s secret services.

Although the week’s incidents “are in no way comparable to the terrorist groups of the 1970s,” according to a statement by Esposito, only a “fraction” of the threats have been reported in the media. He added, “I’ve received a similar letter myself.”

Federico Niglia, who teaches a course on terrorism at St. John’s University in Rome, was quoted in the report saying, “I don’t expect a return of the Red Brigades, but there is the risk of more or less organized attacks against people or institutions that are seen as symbols of global finance. The technocratic government may be seen as a target in this sense, and so are the executives of banks and multinational companies.”

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