Tensions rise over bid to rename Italy park for a Mussolini

ROME — A campaign by a right-wing member of the Italian government to rename a park in honor of Benito Mussolini’s younger brother is heating up political tensions.

Economy Ministry Undersecretary Claudio Durigon, a lawmaker from the right-wing League party, wants to change the name of the park, which now honors two slain Sicilian anti-Mafia investigators. Durigon wants the park in the central city of Latina to go back to carrying the name of Arnaldo Mussolini, the younger brother of the Fascist dictator.

The park, studded with umbrella pines and popular with joggers and strollers, had been originally named after Arnaldo Mussolini. But after the 1992 assassinations in Sicily of magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the park was later re-christened in their honor.

In a growing crescendo of objections, the leaders of other parties in Premier Mario Draghi’s coalition are insisting that Durigon resign. Some in Parliament’s largest party, the populist 5-Star Movement, say they’re ready to seek a non-confidence vote against Durigon if he won’t step down.

“Undersecretary Durigon ought to remove the embarrassment for Premier Draghi” and the government of “of our republic, born of the anti-fascist struggle,” Democratic Party Sen. Tatjana Rojc said Wednesday, referring to Italy’s post-war Constitution.

Born in 1885, two years after Benito, Arnaldo Mussolini was one of his sibling’s staunchest supporters. Put in charge by the dictator of the Popolo d’Italia newspaper, a propaganda tool for the regime, the younger Mussolini worked to ensure that journalists during the dictatorship stayed firmly in the fascist orbit. Arnaldo Mussolini died in 1931, years before the outbreak of World War II that would see his brother join in alliance with Hitler’s Germany.

Durigon proposed the name change last week at a political rally in Latina.

“This is Latina’s history, which someone wanted to cancel even by the name change of our park,” Durigon said, referring to the renaming of the city park in honor of the Sicilian magistrates.

Latina is the principal city in an area south of Rome whose marsh lands were cleared by the Fascist regime to make the land more suitable for settlements and to reduce the risk of malaria.

While Matteo Salvini’s anti-migrant League party has its power base in Italy’s north, it has been making inroads in the south. Durigon, a former union leader, is considered a key Salvini ally in Lazio, the region that includes the Italian capital, Rome, and Latina, a provincial capital in an area of agriculture, small industry and seaside resort towns.

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