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A trash uprising in Naples

Last night, the citizens of Naples took to the street and set the city alight, but not in the name of freedom, democracy, or human rights. No, they just wanted their trash taken out: Residents of the Italian city of Naples set fire to piles of rubbish overnight in protest at the government’s failure to ...

STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Last night, the citizens of Naples took to the street and set the city alight, but not in the name of freedom, democracy, or human rights. No, they just wanted their trash taken out:

Residents of the Italian city of Naples set fire to piles of rubbish overnight in protest at the government’s failure to clear a backlog of more than 2,000kg of malodorous waste from the streets.

Firefighters tackled about 55 rubbish fires, some of them in piles of waste 2m (6ft) high.

Yesterday’s protests recall the embarrassing trash fiasco of 2007-2008, when residents torched the city’s piles twice after local dumps filled up and communities vetoed attempts to build new ones. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised to fix the crisis first while campaigning for re-election to the Italian Parliament in 2008 and again in 2010, but the problem has since continued to fester, despite measures that have included multiple interventions by the Italian army. Trash collection in Naples remains controlled by the mafia, who are thought to net billions each year for their involvement.

The mayor of Naples hasn’t been impressed with Berlusconi’s efforts, although the analogy he used yesterday may be a teensy-bit generous to his city:

Berlusconi has shown with his actions that he doesn’t give a damn about Naples. He has washed his hands of it like Pontius Pilate.

And Naples is Jesus? Bunga bunga, this is not.

Edmund Downie is a Yale University Gordon Grand Fellow currently interning at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. He works on the regional political economy of Asia. Follow him at @ned_downie. Twitter: @ned_downie

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