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Vandalism, violent incidents mark Italy’s election campaign

February 21, 2018

A forensic police officer looks at graffiti reading in Italian "Death to the cops" on a vandalized monument honoring police killed by Red Brigades terrorists, in Rome, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. More acts of vandalism and violence have occurred during Italy's tense election campaign, with targets including far-right and far-left advocates and other politicians. A swastika and written graffiti were found Wednesday defacing a Rome monument honoring police killed by Red Brigades terrorists in 1978 during former Italian Premier Aldo Moro's abduction. Residents covered the graffiti with bed sheets until a municipal cleanup crew arrived to erase the scrawls. (Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA via AP)

ROME (AP) — More acts of vandalism, intimidation and violence have been taking place during Italy’s tense election campaign, including a bullet placed in mail destined for a candidate for Parliament, and the knifing of two people affixing campaign posters.

Interior Minister Marco Minniti warned on Wednesday that Italian organized crime syndicates could try to influence the results of the March 4 vote which will help determine Italy’s next government.

“The risk, is, unfortunately, concrete, that the Mafia can condition the free vote in our country,” Minniti said at a presentation of Parliament’s annual report on organized crime. “We understand that’s a threat to the most important thing in democracy.”

Authorities have long contended that crime bosses promise candidates votes from Italians loyal to their crime clan in exchange for public works contracts being awarded to their associates.

Nasty and sometimes violent incidents have been reported nearly daily in the run-up to the vote.

Early Wednesday, residents in a Rome neighborhood discovered two swastikas and “death to cops” scrawled in black paint on a monument honoring five police bodyguards who were slain on that block by Red Brigades terrorists during the March 1978 abduction of former Premier Aldo Moro. Moro was later slain by his captors.

Residents covered the graffiti with bed sheets until it could be erased. The memorial’s plaque had been temporarily removed for cleaning ahead of the 40th anniversary of the policemen’s killing.

In southern Calabria, a post office found a bullet wrapped in a facsimile of a ballot in an envelope addressed to a candidate of the populist 5-Star Movement for Parliament’s lower Chamber of Deputies. The movement said the candidate, Giuseppe d’Ippolito, was assigned protection for his home and law office in the town of Lamezia Terme, whose city council was recently ordered disbanded by Italy’s government due to suspected infiltration by the ’ndrangheta crime syndicate.

On Tuesday, two men suffered knife wounds while affixing posters for a far-left party in central Italy, while a leader of the far-right Forza Nuova group was beaten up by assailants after leaving a supermarket in central Palermo, Sicily.

In Tuscany, the mayor of the town of Castelfiorentino said a swastika was scrawled on a monument honoring a young man hung by Italy’s Nazi occupiers in 1945. Mayor Alessio Falorni said there was an attempt in Italy to “bring back to life dead ideologies, but in an insidious way, without citing them directly and by exploiting people’s anger.”

Violence also erupted earlier in the campaign in central Italy when an Italian gunman wounded six Africans in a drive-by shooting. He said he was avenging the murder of an 18-year-old Italian woman allegedly killed by Nigerian migrants.

Anti-migrant rhetoric has coursed through much of the campaign, including from leaders of the League, a party allied with former Premier Silvio Berlusconi in a campaign coalition.

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