Italian official resigns after outcry to honor Mussolini's brother

ROME – An Italian government official resigned Thursday after coming under heavy criticism over his proposal to rename a park in his hom...


ROME – An Italian government official resigned Thursday after coming under heavy criticism over his proposal to rename a park in his hometown named after the fascist brother of former Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini.

The proposal to rename the park after Arnaldo Mussolini was made earlier this month by official Claudio Durigo, undersecretary at the Ministry of the Economy and a member of the right-wing League party.

He revived a debate on the memory of Benito Mussolini in a nation that still struggles to reconcile its fascist past. Unlike other countries which long ago agreed to blanket condemnation of their authoritarian rulers, debates still frequently erupt in Italy on whether a distinction should be made between what Mussolini’s supporters consider the good he did during his reign of 1922-1943 and the atrocities he ordered.

“The case is a clear example of how history can be revised in Italy today,” said Andrea Mammone, Italian historian at Royal Holloway University in London. “Fascist ideology and culture are again present not only in the smaller extremist movements, but also in the large national parties.”

In recent years, Italian far-right parties have gained support. One of them, the Brothers of Italy, previously presented Mussolini’s great-grandson as a candidate for the European Parliament and is today the most popular party in Italy, according to recent polls. He is closely followed by Mr. Durigon’s anti-immigrant party.

In an open letter of apology announcing his resignation, Mr. Durigon denied ever having been a fascist. But he said he wanted to pay tribute to the “great work” done by the Mussolini regime to reconquer the area around Latina, the city near Rome where the park is located, and to eradicate malaria there. The name of Arnaldo Mussolini “is part of the memory of the city”, he writes.

“I was attacked for offering to save historical memory,” he added.

The park was once named after Arnaldo Mussolini, but in 2017 the city council renamed it Parc Falcone and Borsellino to honor two murdered anti-Mafia prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were killed by the Mafia in 1992 .

Mr Durigon, speaking at a rally in Latina this month, said he wanted to revert to the park’s earlier name to honor Arnaldo Mussolini, who wrote for a fascist newspaper and was seen as the spokesperson of his brother.

“It has to become the Mussolini Park it always has been again,” said Durigon to applause from the crowd.

Giuseppe Conte, the former prime minister who heads the populist Five Star movement, called the proposal “serious and baffling” and called for Mr Durigon’s resignation. Left parties, anti-mafia associations and anti-fascist fighting groups have expressed their outrage.

Gianfranco Pagliarulo, president of the National Association of Italian Left Supporters, wrote in Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano this month that the proposal was alarming and the latest in a series of cases in which politicians have expressed sympathies fascists – including regional officials who sang fascist songs on the radio or sponsored festivals by fringe neo-fascist groups.

“The resignation of Under-Secretary Claudio Durigon is excellent news for democracy and anti-fascism,” Pagliarulo said in a statement on Friday.

Law-wing logs criticized the charges against Mr Durigon, alluding to a “cancellation of the culture of political correctness” in Italy.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League party, dismissed the debate, saying there was no nostalgia for fascism in his party or elsewhere in Italy.

But the plains south of Rome, where Latina is located, are known to be a reservoir of fascist sentiment. In the late 1920s, the regime reclaimed land from the malaria-rife Pontine swamps, both to gain fields for cultivation and to prove that this could make the region habitable.

Workers drained swamps and built roads and infrastructure, while architects designed entire towns where the regime displaced families from northern Italy. When it was inaugurated in 1932, the town of Latina was called Littoria, in reference to the “lictors” or Roman troops who carried bundles, or bundles, symbol of authority and order which gave its name to the fascist party.

Mr Mammone, the historian, said that Arnaldo Mussolini had no direct connection with Latina, but his name was simply a tribute to fascism. Many people still equate the monumental work carried out in the region with a symbol of fascist success.

In his apologies, Mr Durigon wrote that his own grandparents were settlers from the north who participated in the draining of the Pontine Marshes.

“I only cared to remember such an intense and special story,” he wrote, admitting his proposal was “poorly worded.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Italian official resigns after outcry to honor Mussolini's brother
Italian official resigns after outcry to honor Mussolini's brother
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