Since a few days, the mayor of the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, Luca Vecchi, has been moving around under escort. The man had received a threatening letter from a Calabrian businessman accused in the Aemilia process, an ugly story involving ‘Ndrangheta, which had led to the indictment of 147 people. “A person who writes from prison and to whom the City Council – we should remind it every time – seized a huge quantity of goods, faced the battle in the courts, and won it – the mayor said -. Casting shadows, inferring, misrepresenting reality, tarnishing, discrediting, and isolating the opponent so as to be able to hit him undisturbedly is the classic, unfortunately notorious mafia method”.
Vecchi, despite himself, became the visible symbol of the dozens of local and regional administrators who are targeted by organized crime every day. It does not take much to trigger retaliation: not having granted a contract, a recommendation request returned to the sender, or a refused bribe. Lawfulness is seen as a serious mistake which is unacceptable for those whose power finds expression in abuse and violence.
According to the latest report “Directors under fire”, prepared by the “Public Notice” Association, 2016 in Italy opened with an actual siege of mayors, aldermen, and councilors: 30 acts of intimidation in less than two months. An ominous boom, slap citizens and institutions which results in a message to the government: action must be taken immediately. The above mentioned case shows that the problem affects not only the South, but the whole country. A few more examples? In Este (province of Padua), on 14 January an anonymous letter with the words “You have to die soon!” reached the desk of Mayor Giancarlo Piva who had already been threatened previously. In the same province, in Ospedaletto Euganeo, on the New Year’s Eve a big firecracker was put in Mayor Antonio Battistella’s mailbox, devastating it. In Calcinato (Brescia) Mayor Marika Legates was verbally assaulted and threatened by a man of foreign origin in his forties. And else, in Civitavecchia (Rome), M5S Mayor Antonio Cozzolino came to the police office on January 29 to denounce that he had been attacked near home.
Threats and cases of violence happen also in the North, with a worrying growth in the Veneto region, and in particular, as illustrated above, near Padua. Yet, it is still in the South, a hostage of different mafia groups, that intimidation occur most frequently. At the top of the ranking there is Calabria, where this year have been registered 9 cases, 4 of which in the province of Reggio Calabria, 3 in that of Cosenza, and one in those of Catanzaro and Crotone. Sicily and Puglia get second place (5 cases), Campania and Sardinia get third place (1 case). The geographical distribution shows that about 70% of the cases are in the South, 27% in the North and 3% in the center. In the South, the dossier says, threats are often repeated, as it happened in the cases of the Calabrian regional councilor Arturo Bova, former mayor of Amarnath (Cz); the mayor of Gioiosa (Rc) Salvatore Fuda; the mayor of Carovigno (Br) Carmine Brandi; mayor of Palma di Montechiaro (Ag) Pasquale Amato and that of the former mayor of Oristano Peter Ortu.
The main means of intimidation has been – in 50% of cases – fire. Followed by (39%) anonymous letters containing threats and physical and verbal assaults (about 7%). In 70% of cases, the fire involved the car of the targeted administrator, 15% of fires happened in municipal facilities and 15% at home. Were set on fire also local authority transport such as school buses and compactors used for collecting rubbish.
“Women and men who administer pro-tempore their communities having their reference point in the Constitution cannot and must not be left alone. We call the government to put in place all possible security measures – Roberto Montà, president of “Public Notice” Association said -. We cannot bear anymore the increasingly frequent and dangerous attacks against local administrators nor tolerate the impunity of those who commit such cowardly and criminal acts. Those who know should talk, citizens should denounce what they see or hear to the authorities. When you hit a public administrator – Montà concludes – gets injured an entire community, an institution, not a single person.”