– Naples’ residents watch trash pile up in the city and surrounding areas
– Angered citizens protest waste dumping
– Prime Minister Prodi designates “trash tsar”
– Naples-based Camorra Mafia to blame; no end to inconvenience and related violence in sight
New clashes erupted on Saturday, January 12, 2008, leading to the arrest of six protesters in Sardinia after a second night of violence broke out between residents and Italian police. Residents are protesting over tons of waste being shipped into the Mediterranean island originating from Naples.
As an ongoing dispute with Naples-based crime syndicate, Camorra continues, trash in the city continues to pile up sparking angered residents to erupt into clashes with police forces and Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, to establish a “trash tsar” in an effort to clean up the city’s mess by May 2008. His efforts so far have faltered due to seemingly weak government practices and the strong-arm of the Italian Mafia.
As we previously reported, since November 2006, Naples’ police forces, local government, and citizens have continued to reside in a city seemingly under siege from the infamous Camorra, a thriving Naples’-based Mafia organization (Previous Report). However, in the days leading up to December 25, 2007, local trash collection, run by the Camorra ceased due to excess waste and purportedly waste disposal centers filled to capacity. Coupled with the rising excesses of waste, plans to construct new incinerators are also stalled due to environmental concerns and rising citizen protests.
Despite PM Prodi’s plans to revitalize legal waste disposal in Italian cities, it is evident the success of these measures will be short-lived as they fail to address the real issue at hand, the Naples-based Mafia and perceived weakness of local government politicians.
Watching the Trash Pile Up
On January 12, 2008, approximately 1,000 angry residents in Sardinia took to the streets burning garbage containers and lobbing stones at Italian police in the latest efforts to stop garbage dumping in the Mediterranean island. Following a call for help from Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, Sardinia, was the first area in Italy to offer to take on some of the 1,000 tons of waste piling up in Naples.
Refuse collection in Naples ceased in the days prior to December 25, 2007, after garbage dumps in the area were officially declared filled to capacity. Since then, citizen-based clashes against the re-opening of old dumping sites have prompted PM Prodi to call for solidarity and further appoint former National Police Chief, Gianni De Gennaro, as the nation’s “trash tsar.” Critics of Prodi’s governing center-left coalition argue the problem stems from years of corruption and political weakness, singling out the local government’s inability to end the Camorra’s control of the waste disposal industry.
Prodi’s “Trash Tsar”
On January 9, 2008, a government-appointed “trash tsar,” former National Police Chief, Gianni De Gennaro, took the reigns in an attempt to curb the waste disposal crisis. Gennaro arrived in Naples with a four-month mandate from the Prodi government to solve the garbage pile-up. Facing intensifying public scrutiny, Prodi’s ruling center-left coalition is hoping that in spite of previous waste commissioners failures, Gennaro will succeed. The first “trash tsar” as Gennaro has been named, was appointed in 1994 under the same mandate – to remove the Camarro from the waste disposal equation – to no such luck. Nearly 15 years and approximately $3 billion of taxpayers’ money later, and the city is still without a solution.
In addition to the “trash tsar,” Prodi has announced a series of short and long-term measures to resolve the waste disposal crisis from re-occurring. Specifically, he announced plans to construct three new incinerators, the Italian army would be called in to remove existing trash piles, and Italian cities would implement recycling.
Trash Headache Only Tip of the Iceberg
Despite Prodi’s plans to revitalize appropriate and legalized waste disposal in Italian cities, it is evident the success of these measures will be short-lived as they fail to address the real issue at hand, the Naples-based Mafia and the local government politicians who appear powerless or unwilling to put an end to the Camorra’s control in the area. As Roberto Saviano, an expert on the Camorra states, “These solutions will get the trash off the streets but in the next year it’ll return.” Camorra controls the entire garbage disposal process, including running the dumps and various waste transport companies, resulting in a highly lucrative business which anti-Mafia Italian prosecutors estimate is $880 million per year. It is unlikely Camorra will change its ways, nor pull out of the waste disposal business altogether.
In addition to the waste disposal issues, today the Camorra has expanded its illicit enterprises and regularly engages in money laundering, drug smuggling, extortion, kidnapping, political corruption, and murder (Previous Report). Thus leaving Naples’ residents and business owners vulnerable and fearful of reprisals for unpaid so-called “pizzos” or Mafia-instituted taxes.
Finally, the threat of Mafia-based violence continues to plague Naples and the surrounding areas. In the past, Camorra attacks have harmed foreign nationals visiting the tourist-friendly city leading to wider concerns Camorra activities may negatively impact Naples’ lucrative tourist industry.