Berlusconi's soldiers walk the streets of Italy
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The Italian government has sent soldiers out into the streets of the country's major cities in an attempt to curb crime and prevent terrorist attacks. A tactic usually employed in war time, the deployment has given rise to mixed reactions. Read more...
The Italian government has sent soldiers out into the streets of the country's major cities in an attempt to curb crime and prevent terrorist attacks. A tactic usually employed in war time, the deployment has given rise to mixed reactions.
As part of Berlusconi's three-part plan to crack down on what he considers to be the country's major problems (rubbish disposal, crime, and the Roma community), soldiers began patrolling cities on Monday. In Rome, 400 "militari in città" (soldiers in the city) have been placed in the underground and at railway stations, as well as in a centre that houses immigrants. Meanwhile, in Milan, 150 soldiers stand in front of the cathedral, the synagogue and the consulates. It's not the first time civilians have experienced a military presence in public. In the nineties, troops were deployed in Sicily to curtail the violence carried out by local mafia gangs.
Material compiled with the help of one of our Observers in Italy, Alberto Celani.
"We have to admit that control has been lost in some cities"
Mauro Bottarelli is a journalist from Milan.
I like to see the uniforms in the streets and the squares. Now we can walk in places where usually there'd be a "no-go zone" sign after a certain time. People say we're militarised; under siege. Under siege?! Which forces are leading this siege? Our own troops?! I think it's nonsense. We have to admit that control has been lost in some cities and maybe this is the best way to regain it. The police are overworked, they need help. The soldiers I've seen were friendly and professional, talking with curious and grateful people, old and young. That's what the critics have to remember."
"What if we have a real emergency?"
Maurizio Pagani is the president of an association for the integration of Roma communities in Italy.
Having troops in the city is not the answer! People ask for a city that they can be safe in, not military forces on the street - that is not what's going to assure them. If there's a lack of security that's because of social problems, and those are not going to be solved by the army. Deploying troops is an extreme measure and should be done in an emergency situation only. What if we have a real emergency? The real solution is to focus on the people, drawing politics closer to the everyday lives of the people. Militarising cities is a big mistake in my opinion."
"Having soldiers in the streets might worry tourists"
Silvia Cernan is a 23-year-old student from Slovakia. She's currently completing her Erasmus exchange programme in Milan.
In Bratislava there are no soldiers in the city and we have less police forces in Slovakia than Italy. Why do we need more in Italy? Insecurity is something irrational and having soldiers in the streets might worry tourists. I didn't use to be concerned about safety issues in Italy, but with these soldiers on the street, it makes you think that there must be a problem, and so you worry more. I might not feel quite so safe coming home late from a club, which could end up restricting my sense of freedom."
"We're giving the people what they asked for"
General Giuseppe Valotto isthe Army General in charge of coordinating the integration of the troops.
We're here to make the public feel more secure. There's no need to say that our cities are "militarised", because the number of soldiers is so low. How can you say that a hugely populated city like Naples is "militarised" when there are only 170 soldiers patrolling the city? After several years of experience, I notice when people react badly to a military presence, and in this case, I've observed that people are happy to see the troops helping the police. We're giving the people what they asked for."
Troops patrolling in Milan
Photos: Alberto Celani.