Amid Italy's Political Upheaval, City of Naples Starts from Scratch Their Government Dissolved by Rome, Residents Wonder Who Can Lead

By Richard Wentworth, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 18, 1993 | Go to article overview

Amid Italy's Political Upheaval, City of Naples Starts from Scratch Their Government Dissolved by Rome, Residents Wonder Who Can Lead


Richard Wentworth, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


FINDING out just what is going on in Naples today is easier said than done.

After bankruptcy and a failure of city services, the government of Italy's leading southern city was dissolved Aug. 6 by decree from Rome. Neapolitans will go to the polls in November to elect a new mayor.

The fall of the government in Naples, a city long identified with the Camorra crime organization, comes as the accusations of investigating magistrates have involved politicians throughout Italy in scandals ranging from kickbacks by businessmen to collusion with organized crime.

But try to get the man or woman on the street here merely to talk about what's happening in their own city and you face a Neapolitan code of silence. The people of Naples remain clannish, with their own dialect that is unintelligible elsewhere in Italy.

An elderly man on Corso Umberto firmly clamps his mouth shut when asked what he thinks about the dissolving of the government. He walks silently away. A young woman sweeping the sidewalk in front of a store responds, "I don't think about politics. I just work, and that's it."

A gray-haired man sitting on the stoop in front of a store in the Montecalverio Quarter is more communicative. He and his two friends admit there is a crisis. One friend vanishes immediately. The man in the colorful short-sleeve shirt continues talking: Unemployment is high, pay is not high enough, living conditions are squalid - "go up there and see the misery," he says, pointing up the narrow, steep Via Emanuele de Deo. There's organized crime, there's a problem with drugs. His other friend, silent, has slipped away into the shadows.

The man praises the work of Italy's investigating magistrates (who have made charges against several prominent Neapolitan politicians, including former government ministers Antonio Gava, Paolo Cirino Pomicino, Vincenzo Scotti, and Francesco De Lorenzo). What Naples needs now, he says, is a strong leader.

"Do you remember Mussolini?" the man asks.

Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of dictator Benito Mussolini, has announced her willingness to be a candidate for the neo-Fascist Social Movement. What about the granddaughter? The man gives an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Not far away, two young men are seated on Via Medina. What do they think of the situation in Naples?

"What do you think?," says one to the other, in jocular fashion. But no one speaks. The young man continues, still smiling, "Why don't you ask them?" He gestures to people waiting for a bus across the street.

Whatever Neapolitans think privately, the series of events that led to the dissolving of the city government was dramatic.

A fourth of the 80 city councilors were under judicial investigation. …

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