With the G-7 Spotlight about to Click on, Naples Hastens to Shed Its Murky Past A New, Reformist City Administration Is Striving to Root out Corruption, Break the Age-Old Grip of Organized Crime, and Make the City More Livable Series: POINTS OF THE COMPASS. Part of an Occasional Series. First of 2 Articles Appearing Today

By Richard L. Wentworth, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 29, 1994 | Go to article overview
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With the G-7 Spotlight about to Click on, Naples Hastens to Shed Its Murky Past A New, Reformist City Administration Is Striving to Root out Corruption, Break the Age-Old Grip of Organized Crime, and Make the City More Livable Series: POINTS OF THE COMPASS. Part of an Occasional Series. First of 2 Articles Appearing Today


Richard L. Wentworth, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


WHEN United States President Clinton arrives here July 7 for the Group of Seven economic summit, he will discover that Naples is trying hard to revive after decades of mismanagement and neglect.

And yet, even under a new city government, Naples remains Naples - chaotic, noisy, sprawling, overcrowded, suspicious of non-Neapolitans, burdened with high unemployment, tight in the grip of organized crime.

"Naples is an anarchic city," admits Cesare Amodio, a lawyer, as he stands in front of City Hall, where workers are laying new asphalt in advance of the G-7 summit.

Mayor Antonio Bassolino, who will welcome the leaders of the world's seven most industrialized nations to Naples for the July 8-10 meeting, has worked hard to end the city government's corruption and to make Naples more livable, by closing parts of the city to traffic, for instance.

The mayor, who took office late last year, has a thankless job. He inherits a 2 trillion lira ($1.3 billion) debt and a financially strapped city bureaucracy.

When Mr. Bassolino and his left-wing government came to power, he found neither a computer nor a typewriter in his office.

Recently Ada Becchi Collidia, the deputy mayor, sent a message to Bassolino, concluding, "I'll stop here and tell you the rest personally, because we've run out of paper."

Up to now, the mayor and his eight city assessors have worked without pay, though he says he hopes this situation will not continue indefinitely.

"The new administration enjoys a public recognition of moral correctness. That is, the people know it works for the citizens and not for its own economic interests," says Mirella Barracco, a leading cultural figure here.

It was not this way before, says Paolo Macry, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Naples.

Until about two years ago, he explains, the city was controlled by three "viceroys," as they were dubbed: Paolo Cirino Pomicino, Giulio Di Donato, and Francesco De Lorenzo.

These superpowerful politicians decided the city's fate for many years, making critical economic decisions and, through their influence in Rome, funneling billions of dollars of state funds to Naples for public works projects.

The kickback and corruption scandal that began in 1992, known as Tangetopoli, ended their reign. Italy's investigating magistrates allege that:

* Mr. Pomicino, the former Italian budget minister, helped award public works contracts to companies connected with the Camorra, the local organized crime group. He has not been arrested and owns a 14-room Neapolitan penthouse.

* Mr. Di Donato received kickbacks for construction projects in the Italia 90 World Cup soccer championship. He is in jail.

* Mr. De Lorenzo, the former Italian health minister, took hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks and other gifts from pharmaceutical companies. He is in jail.

The authorities also allege that all three exchanged jobs for votes.

"The records of the Gulf {of Naples} Tangentopoli bring to light the mechanism of bad politics: jobs for votes, spoils-system hiring, a frenzy of kickbacks. The public administration reduced to the mere acquisition of money and power. Nothing else," writes journalist Giovanni Marino in his book "Bella e Mala Napoli."

"In Milan and elsewhere in central and northern Italy, the efficiency of public services is much higher than in Naples, precisely because throughout central and northern Italy the political parties didn't have to win consensus in this way, because they had a much more solid history behind them," says Professor Macry.

Macry's hilltop apartment offers a splendid view of Vesuvius, the Bay of Naples, and the hodgepodge of densely packed buildings in the city below. He gestures sadly at this panorama.

"There were no controls of any kind.

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With the G-7 Spotlight about to Click on, Naples Hastens to Shed Its Murky Past A New, Reformist City Administration Is Striving to Root out Corruption, Break the Age-Old Grip of Organized Crime, and Make the City More Livable Series: POINTS OF THE COMPASS. Part of an Occasional Series. First of 2 Articles Appearing Today
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