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Italy shooting sparks fears of climate of tension

/ 08:35 PM April 29, 2013

ROME – A shooting outside government headquarters in Rome has revived the specter of political violence which rocked Italy in the 1970s, and sparked accusations of blame against a growing anti-establishment movement.

On Sunday, a kilometer away from where the country’s new cabinet was being sworn in, an unemployed man suffering from depression shot two policemen, leaving one in a critical state.

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The government’s insistence that it was a one-off act by a desperate individual did not prevent cries in Italy that months of a political instability and the social fallout from austerity in the recession-hit country had created a dangerous climate of tension.

The fact that the attack came as the rival left and right-wing parties were uniting in a coalition led some to draw parallels with the so-called “Years of Lead”, which culminated in the kidnap and murder of former premier Aldo Moro by the militant left-wing Red Brigades group in 1978.

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Moro, leader of the Christian Democratic party, had been negotiating a controversial agreement to form a coalition government with the Italian Communist Party, described as a “historic compromise.”

“Six gun shots and Rome shakes from the idea of a new terrorism,” said Monday’s Il Fatto Quotidiano, while Corriere della Sera spoke of “those ghosts that follow us still”.

“The country was different then, sunk into a period of lead which no longer exists. But the context was similar: the economic crisis, the parties struggling,” Corriere della Sera said.

“The nightmare, for a few moments, returned in the palaces of power, until the first news about the attacker — a single man, overwhelmed by depression — brought a sigh of relief.”

Leading politicians called for the new government to take urgent action to address Italy’s social and economic ills as the worst recession the country has seen in 20 years grinds on.

But others blamed the shooting on anti-political sentiment, captured by the Five Star Movement, which was boosted by protest votes in the February general election to win a quarter of the ballot.

Former premier Silvio Berlusconi lashed out at Five Star, whose founder, ex-comedian Beppe Grillo, has called for a “war” on self-serving politicians and had previously suggested Italy’s missiles should be set on parliament.

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“When you play with fire by talking about attacks on the institutions and railing against everything and everyone, these sorts of things happen,” the center-right leader said.

Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno, a member of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, agreed.

“If you spend months slinging mud at the seats of power, sooner or later a mad person will pop up. We need to put an end to the verbal violence which puts weapons in the hands of nutcases,” he said.

Grillo was quick to denounce the violence on his blog and express solidarity with the wounded policemen.

But Five Star member of parliament Laura Castelli said “politics has delegitimized the people. The seats of power should listen to Italians, but they prefer to rely on back-room deals”.

“The citizens have the impression they are being mocked,” she added.

The left fought for months to find a way of governing the country following inconclusive elections in February without going into power with its rival Berlusconi, but to no avail.

The new cross-party deal has been widely welcomed as an end to the political deadlock, but there have been murmurs of discontent from rebel members of the center-left Democratic Party (PD), and disturbing cracks within the country’s largest party may signal further turbulence to come.

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