Italy fury as Benito Mussolini’s heir calls for vote on monuments to fascism
Mussolini museum project awakes demons of Italy's past
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An Italian economy undersecretary has resigned after causing an uproar by saying a park in his hometown should be renamed after the brother of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Claudio Durigon, a member of the right-wing Lega, said earlier this month his party was committed to restoring the original name of the park in Latina, a city of around 120,000 residents in central Italy, to Arnaldo Mussolini.
Arnaldo was a journalist who helped to forge the propaganda campaign for the Italian fascists. He died of a heart attack in 1931.
The park was renamed in 2017 to commemorate Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two top anti-mafia magistrates who were murdered by the Sicilian mafia in 1992.
Latina was founded in 1932 during fascist rule and is associated with Mussolini.
“That is our history that someone wanted to cancel by changing the name of that park,” Durigon told supporters at a rally, speaking alongside Lega leader Matteo Salvini.
He added: “It must return to being the Mussolini park.”
His comments sparked a political backlash, with centre-left parties within the broad unity government, which includes the Lega, saying they would introduce a parliamentary no-confidence motion in the undersecretary unless he quit.
With the controversy showing no sign of abating, Mr Durigon resigned on Thursday night, acknowledging he had made a mistake and apologising to the families of mafia victims.
In his resignation statement, the Latina-born MP said: “I’ve never been a Fascist but I’m sorry”.
He apologised to victims of the mafia and their relatives.
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Matteo Salvini had initially tried to defend Mr Durigon, but came under pressure from stalwarts within his own group who were unhappy to see one of their own politicians apparently praising Mussolini’s heritage.
He dismissed the criticisms of Mr Durigon as “the usual polemics of the left”.
Reports have also suggested Premier Mario Draghi exerted moral suasion over Matteo Salvini.
The Lega is vying with the far-right Brothers of Italy for top spot in the opinion polls.
Mr Salvini thanked Mr Durigon for stepping aside and made clear he would remain within Lega.
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Mr Salvini said Mr Durigon “is laving his post out of love for Italy and the League, and not to slow down the action of the government”.
“Fascism and communism are not coming back, I’m worried about the migrant landings,” Mr Salvini said.
“So I thank Claudio has shown love for Italy and Lega.”
Mr Durigon, who turns 50 next month, had been the architect of Lega’s flagship ‘quota 100’ early retirement scheme, for which Mr Salvini reiterated his praise.
He received the support of Caio Mussolini, 53, a great grandson of Benito Mussolini, who said: “Why don’t we have a referendum to let people choose the name?”
Mr Mussolini is an adviser to the Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s party.
He added: “Dropping the name of the park was part of a ridiculous cancel culture.
“Falcone and Borsellino were giants but the name should have been kept.
“Couldn’t they have built a new park to name after them?”
Despite his apology, Mr Durigon later said: “Everything in that land recalls a history that ‘politically correct’ people would like to cancel forever.”
He also praised Mussolini for helping a part of Italy “that for too long was disadvantaged and uninhabitable” re-prosper.
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