Does anyone remember the violent protests in Rome last December? Yeah, me neither. But they definitely happened, all hidden in the headlines amongst Christmas bullshit and state government cabinet reshuffles. So to fill you in on the important information you need to follow along with this week’s rant, this is what went on: Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is not popular amongst a vast majority of Italian citizens, yet narrowly managed to survive a no confidence vote forced upon him by his centre-left parliamentary opposition in December last year. The anti-Berlusconi contingent went mental as the result was released, and started riots in the ancient city, apparently creating the most violence seen there in a long time. People were injured, stuff was smashed, but it went mostly unacknowledged by most of us here in Australia, as is often the way, due to the major news networks spending more time on discussing the drunken behavior of the players in the AFL than world political events.
Berlusconi pops up in the news occasionally, usually associated with dodgy dealings and claims of support for issues or people that anyone with vaguely left wing leanings would find unnerving. The last scandal, which helped sparked the aforementioned no-confidence vote, is that of “Ruby the Heart Stealer”, the underage prostitute. She attended one of the many parties held by the rich-as-fuck, 74 year old Prime Minister when she was 17, and admitted to accepting a “gift” of 7000 euros. While all individuals involved deny any sexy-times… it’s kind of her job to do that, however illegal the circumstances were at the time. And besides, no gets free money, least of all from the fucking Prime Minister of Italy.
There are a few points of interest here: 1. Prostitution is only illegal in Italy if the individual that is paid for sex is under the age of 18. 2. Berlusconi is notorious for having a taste for the ladies - he has had two wives and a host of lovers (shudder), some of whom admit to sleeping with him out of gratitude for various reasons, AND he fills his government with beautiful women, many of them ex-show girls with fuck-all political experience. What the shit? The man has some serious lady issues. Last of all: 3. Berlusconi was an entrepreneur before he went into politics, a self-made millionaire, and his habit of having laws changed to make sure the numerous charges against him (which, according to Wikipedia includes mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges) went away is well documented (I have tried to find a good website translation service to provide some backup for this statement, but it’s not working out very well. It’s there, but it’s in Italian).
More fuel to feed the Berlusconi-is-scary fire: He is a supporter of Egyptian President Mubarak. He openly supports (the British PM is brief but great in this video by the way) a President who lets his police force beat the crap out of anyone they feel like beating the crap out of; and surprise surprise, the Italian foreign minister doesn’t like Julian Assange. Funnily enough, Wikileaks will be releasing more cables with tasty morsels of information about the Italian government in the coming weeks, which may well lead to a much bigger, though hopefully more peaceful, reaction than the December 2010 riots.
But what has been released already is the information that a relatively new, yet somewhat hidden Italian law that has been worded in such a way as to allow the government “enough leeway to block or censor any Internet content”, despite the law being created to as a way to stop internet child pornography. Protests are going on as we speak against the law, with those lovely “Anonymous” hackers getting into the government website and shutting it down briefly as a way of displaying their disapproval of the whole situation. And there is still more to it than that, with information about a bill that favours the television service Berlusconi owns, while disadvantaging its main competitor. This is just one in a large list of conflicts of interest and abuse of power displayed by this guy.
Sure, it was funny for a while when we all noticed how beautiful his parliamentary peers were a few years ago… well, kind of funny, and everyone was all “Oh lolz I wish we had those chicks instead of Amanda Vanstone” etc, but no one realized that- in reality- all those long legs and perky boobies were indicative of a ridiculous, self-serving, and potentially corrupt way of running a country. He’s breaking laws so he can get freaky with a 17 year old prostitute, and making sure he has the power to shut off the internet when the time is right… no wonder Rome was plagued with riots. He may have helped Italy avoid the worst of the economic recession, but this is usually what conservative governments are good at- winning at economics, and then proving to be total bastards in every other respect.