Tuesday, 19 October, 2021

Italian minister quits over Mussolini park plan

Italian minister quits over Mussolini park plan

ROME: A junior minister in Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government has resigned after a backlash over his proposal to name a public park after the brother of dictator Benito Mussolini. Claudio Durigon initially had the support of his far-right League party and its leader Matteo Salvini, which is part of Draghi’s government of national unity, reports AFP.

But this fell away during weeks of criticism — including from members of the League battling to present the party as a moderate force — and Durigon quit as a junior minister in the economy and finance ministry late Thursday.  “I am not, and I have never been, a fascist,” he insisted, but admitted he had “made mistakes” with his plan to rename the park in Latina, a town in his constituency south of Rome, after Arnaldo Mussolini.

The park had for decades been named after Mussolini, a journalist, agriculture expert and confidante of his brother, the fascist ruler of Italy between 1922 and 1943.

In 2017 it was renamed after two anti-mafia judges murdered by the mob, Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone, to complaints from the far-right.

Durigon, who has been an MP since 2018, presented his proposal not as a way to honour the Mussolinis, but to mark the history of the area.

The land around Latina was reclaimed from marshes in the 1930s, in one of the biggest public works projects enacted by the Mussolini regime.

Durigon’s grandparents were among the many agricultural workers brought in from Veneto in northeastern Italy to work on the reclaimed land, which is now a major agricultural hub.

In a statement, Salvini thanked the minister for his “gesture of responsibility”, saying he was resigning “for the love of Italy and the League, and not to slow down the work of government”.