Matteo Salvini Has Emboldened Fascists in Italy
A .38-Caliber Rosary
The Dangerous New Face of Salvini’s Italy
Shots fired at foreigners, assaults on minorities, neo-fascist marches: Italy’s extreme right wing feels emboldened by the country’s new leadership. Many are pointing fingers at Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. But is he to blame?
By Walter Mayr
December 12, 2018
He has hardly got off the airplane before the stream of invective begins. Refugees, says Matteo Salvini at the end of a trip to Africa, “who rape, steal and deal” will be stopped by the new security decree. Italy, he fumes, has had enough of migrants “who aren’t fleeing from war but who are bringing war to our country.”
Not a day goes by without an incitement from Salvini. In office as interior minister since June 1, the head of the right-wing party Lega has become the voice of the government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Salvini’s motto is simple: “Italians first.” His tone is combative. And the consequences can be seen everywhere.
In Macareta, black pedestrians were shot at in broad daylight. In Aprilia, a Moroccan man was beaten to death. In Caserta, youth opened fire on men from Mali. The steady stream of incidents in the summer and fall of 2018 has triggered disgust in Italy and beyond. At least 70 racist occurrences were registered in the country between June and October.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella has warned against vigilantism and a “Wild West mentality.” In July, the refugee aid agency UNHCR registered its “deep concern over the growing number of attacks in latest months against migrants, asylum-seekers, refugees and Italian citizens of foreign origins.” The Italian Bishops Conference noted a “climate of distrust, contempt and anger.”
It seems as though neo-fascists and right-wing radicals around the country feel invigorated, as though xenophobia has become acceptable. Gad Lerner, the writer of a television series about racism, even speaks of a “fascist maelstrom to which our country is succumbing.” But someone like Salvini isn’t too concerned about criticism. Sitting at his desk in the Interior Ministry, beneath a painting of the Baby Jesus between Mother Mary and Saint Anne, he poses as a strongman who refuses to be cowed.
He has closed the country’s ports to refugee boats, cut the number of new arrivals to a fifth of their previous total and pushed through a new law that allows for accelerated asylum proceedings and deportations.