Italian Troubles: Political Crisis and Earthquakes

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The scream by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch is such a powerful image that I like to post when something truly shocks, saddens or upsets me. I’m not even talking about the US elections here for I have decided not to write about them on this blog. Yet since I write so much about Italy, a country I consider my second home, I have decided that I can write about other parts of Italy and Italian culture and life that matter to me. For many years I was a political and economic journalist in Italy in the 1990s. Much has changed but much sadly remains the same, just different people running the show.

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This is my first post on the topic and today I want to write about the terrible situation in Central Italy as a result of the recent earthquakes and the avalanche that followed and collapsed a hotel in the region of Abruzzo. At last reading of the news, about 30 people were still missing and feared dead. Many of these people were staff workers at the hotel. Others were vacationers who were on the ritual “settimana bianca.” Central Italy has had the worst snow storms over the last few days in decades, perhaps 35 years I heard on Canale 5 Mediaset last evening. I watch Italian news every night after the PBS newshour. I am often struck at the differences in the way the news is presented and what each speaks about. I also just saw a long talk show hosted by Maurizio Costanzo who together with Bruno Vespa are among the most famous of Italian TV talk show hosts. The entire program was dedicated to why the reconstruction of cities like Amatrice which were destroyed in an earthquake in the fall takes so long and why the city was destroyed in the first place. Everyone mentions comparisons with the buildings in Japan that do withstand earthquakes after they were rebuilt with seismic activity in mind. Central Italy lies on the Apennine mountains. There are corruptions scandals galore following the disaster in Amatrice. A school collapsed which had just been rebuilt, people are still living in tents. The recent snow fall has also robbed the area of electricity and many of the roads are blocked.

Different branches of the Italian armed forces and the Carabinieri are currently in the area trying to aid residents and tourists alike who are trapped in their homes. The situation is very grave and the added issues of corruption and shoddy building materials make it all the sadder. Both the governing party and the opposition are trying to come together to flesh out a new electoral law so that people can vote for the first time in four years. The last elected President was Berlusconi. My hope is that the earthquakes in Central Italy will calm down, that people will be found alive in that hotel and that a new electoral law will be written which will put an end to these musical chairs we are witnessing.

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