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Italian PM: Racist senator 'has to go'

July 17th, 2013
05:04 PM ET

By Mick Krever and Claire Calzonetti, CNN

An Italian parliamentarian who compared that country’s first-ever black cabinet minister to an orangutan “has to go,” Italy’s prime minister told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

“It was a shock for Italy and for, of course, the public opinion,” Enrico Letta said. “You know, my choice to ask Cecile Kyenge to be minister was a choice very clear for the country. Italians have – they have to understand that the internal integration is one of the main issues for the future.”

Letta, who spoke with Amanpour in London after a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron, said he had asked Roberto Calderoli, the vice president of Italy’s senate, to step down.

“It’s a shame,” Letta continued. “It’s really a shame, and I will continue to ask him to resign.”

It’s a controversy soon into Letta’s first term. An unlikely candidate, he assumed the office in April essentially by default, after months of political deadlock.

At just 46 years old, he is one of the youngest prime ministers in the country’s history.

And he has what can probably be considered the country’s toughest job.

Front and foremost is Italy’s ailing economy – nearly 40% of young people are out of a job.

“Youth unemployment is really my nightmare,” he told Amanpour. “We are losing a generation. And without this generation there is no hope for the future of the country.”

That is not to say, though, that Italy will need European support, Letta said.

“We don’t need any bailout,” he said, “because we are among the few virtuous countries in Europe.”

Italy does face a problem of growth, unemployment, and “general debt,” Letta admitted, but he will not be seeking assistance from the European Commission.

Nonetheless, he faces a public in Italy that is not exactly receptive to domestic government initiative. Close to 90% of Italians don’t trust their leaders, according to a Eurispes poll.

“One of the most important pillars of the activity of my government is reform of politics,” Letta told Amanpour. “We need to be very transparent, we need to be very clear.”

Italy’s parliament has close to a thousand members. That’s close to double the number of representatives in the United States, for a country one fifth as large. On top of that, many earn huge salaries and enjoy extensive perks.

Letta, in an attempt to appear down to the earth and one of the people, staged a particularly Italian photo-op as he took office: driving himself to the presidential palace in a Fiat.

Letta said that he had started the process of changing the constitution to reduce the number of parliamentarians to around four hundred, and to get rid of one of the two chambers of parliament.

Ultimately, Letta said, his thinking about the future of his country goes back to the youth.

“To see how many Italians are going out of Italy as a sort of exodus – [it is] a great generation leaving my country.”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Italy • Latest Episode
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Sam

    Italy is not loosing one generation but also the sons of that generation lost!

    July 17, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Reply
  2. Sam

    "Close to 90% of Italians don’t trust their leaders, according to a Eurispes poll."

    Solve the corruption problem and you'll see Italian coming back home!

    July 17, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Reply
    • wasso

      Close to 90 % of the populace don't trust their leaders in most countries.

      July 18, 2013 at 12:24 am | Reply
  3. Sam

    "Letta, in an attempt to appear down to the earth and one of the people, staged a particularly Italian photo-op as he took office: driving himself to the presidential palace in a Fiat."

    It's a very appreciated attempt.

    July 17, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  4. Charles

    Change is a scarce commodity in Italy. The country is living in its past glorious legacy. The Northern ColLEAGUEs cant see beyond their noses ignorantly sinking Italy into penury.

    July 17, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  5. Billybear3

    Have the Vatican bail them out.

    July 17, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Reply
  6. Freddie Nerk

    It is a disgrace that Italy, the land of Michaelangelo, would have a black political appointee. Our country has huge unemployment and we give jobs to these unwelcome immigrants. European culture is dying with this influx of blacks and Muslims.

    July 18, 2013 at 1:24 am | Reply
    • Ludi

      I agree and it is not only Italy but yes, all of Europe. Africans and Muslims are pouring in and politicians are pretending, for whatever reason they have, that this is not happening. We are losing our culture and our freedom of speech. Why doesn't that African woman go back to her country and work there? If she has so much to offer why not offer it to her own people?

      July 18, 2013 at 2:44 am | Reply
      • Peace

        Ludii, I've been living I italy for more than 20 years and thank God the Overwhelming majority of people do not think like you. And remember, Italians for generationss have been Migrants looking for a better life all around the world.

        July 18, 2013 at 3:41 am |
      • jr

        Have Italians ever left Italy for foreign lands looking for something better or worse something to destroy and conquer. You racists are a curious, funny and dying breed. The wealth and power on this planet is turning brown before your very eyes. Asian, African and Latin American countries are ascending while Europe rots. Keep your culture and hope that the new leaders of the world are kinder to Europeans than you were to their ancestors back when your countries had power. I laugh at all of your complaints and wailing about foreigners. Every dog has its day. yours has come and gone. The future is very bright for the newcomers with darker skin. Ha Ha!

        July 18, 2013 at 6:17 am |
      • Dieke01

        Back to her country? She's been living in Italy for more than 30 years, is married to an Italian and her children are Italian. Doesn't that make her "Italian enough"?

        July 18, 2013 at 6:53 am |
      • Dieke01

        Like Peace says: "Italians for generationss have been Migrants looking for a better life all around the world". The vast Italian community in Belgium is living proof of it. Our PM, Elio Di Rupo, is 100 % of Italian descent. By the standards of these racists, we should kick him out and back "to his own country"?

        July 18, 2013 at 6:55 am |
      • M.A.P.

        Looks to me like you're not "losing your freedom of speech" as you say. You're still quite free to spew your uneducated bigoted views around, even one of your parliamentarians was free to ridicule this fine Italian woman for no reason other than her skin colour. An absolute shame on your country.

        July 18, 2013 at 11:56 am |
      • Chris

        You're right. Immigrants must leave. Throw all Italian American immigrants back to your backward country.

        July 18, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
      • Bill

        And to you ludi.... Wake up and look around you! You might express your opinion but that wouldn't change a thing and there's nothing you can do about it. Hope you'll still be here in the next 30 years and see for yourself. Go to the schools and see for yourself. I only pity you. People like you should only be pitied for their Ignorance !

        July 19, 2013 at 6:00 am |
    • Jones

      Ignorant freak !!

      July 18, 2013 at 2:44 am | Reply
    • John

      Given that Italians have migrated en mass to other countries don't you think that is rather hypocritical? If Italians were allowed to move to other countries and successfully establish themselves in their new homes, why should an intelligent, law abiding African immigrant not be allowed to do so in Italy? But if you want to make yourself look like a hypocritical racist dick by all means go ahead.

      July 18, 2013 at 3:42 am | Reply
    • M.A.P.

      Wow. Typical Italians – they think they are superior to Blacks and Muslimes? They can't even run their own country!! You need Germany and the EU to bail you out over and over. Look at your failure of a Prime Minister Bellusconi! You Italians are a pathetic JOKE in europe and you have no credibility. Statements like the one above only further damage your countries already floundering reputation. Look at the Costa Concordia Captain – you guys are a bunch of town idiots and you think its funny – it's not funny when the rest of the EU has to pay for your incompetence.

      July 18, 2013 at 4:06 am | Reply
      • Matteo

        Damn you sound angry.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:37 am |
      • M.A.P.

        Yeah, I'm sorry! Not ALL Italians fit the profile above, but there seems to be a kind of – shrug of the shoulders when it comes to politics in Italy. Noone seems to really care even though the rest of us have to pay for it. If Italy was giving billions of Euros to Germany, and the German government couldn't even hold parliament together – how would you feel about your tax money going there to fund racists and idiots like Belusconi? You'd be in the streets calling Merkel a nazi as usual.

        July 18, 2013 at 8:25 am |
      • dm387

        Just for the record though, Italy has neither asked nor been given a bail out. If you bothered to read the article, you'd have known that. Plus it remains a relatively productive country based on the strength of the 'Made in Italy' brand.

        July 18, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
      • M.A.P.

        An internal note by Italy's second-largest lender, Mediobanca, says the country is heading for an EU bailout. It's just a matter of time.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:01 am |
      • M.A.P.

        Oh and "ju8st for the record", I didn't say that Italy HAS received a bailout. I said we have to pay for their bailout. Which we will have to soon enough. But if you'd read my comments properly you would know that.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:03 am |
      • M.A.P.

        @dm387 – type in "italy productivity" into google and have a look at a couple of the graphs. Yeah "made in italy" is great. Idiot.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:10 am |
      • dm387

        Lol...So you have to resort to insults to prove your point. In your words "They can't even run their own country!! You need Germany and the EU to bail you out over and over"...It doesn't take being a genius to figure out that you meant Italy has already received bail outs more than once. I was only pointing out that Italy unlike Spain, Portugal Ireland,Greece and Cyprus has NOT received bailouts as of today.

        Speaking of productivity, "Made in Italy" is still one of the most respected brands in the world. Whether you know this or not is not my problem. Italy is still the largest producer of designer brands (Dolce & Gabbana, etc), luxury automobiles (Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini) and so on. It may annoy you to know that Italy's Fiat bought up the ailing Chrysler (America's third largest automobile manufacture at the time) and turned the company's fate around. Now Chrysler is back on top of its game run by an Italian company.

        You can call me all you want, not here to insult anyone, I'm here to state the facts. So if you allow your bias and predjudices blind u from seeing the truth, well thats your problem.

        PS: i'm an African lived in Italy

        July 19, 2013 at 11:56 am |
      • M.A.P.

        Well I certainly wasn't trying to insult YOU, however your condescending reply did annoy me. If you are an African that immigrated to Italy, you should know how they treat foreigners and refugees in their country. Unless you were sent there by an ultra rich family with Government/Military ties in which case you probably haven't got a normal perspective of things in Italy. I wouldn't be suprised if you just made that up to try and win the argument though.

        July 22, 2013 at 6:12 am |
    • CittàEterna

      Wow, the igorance of some people really shocks me. The America that is today was built by immigrants, in case you didn't realize this, Freddy. Europeans left their homelands to go to a strange country to do the dirty work that no one else wanted to do. Your comments are a disgrace to humankind. I don't know where you are from, but stay there.

      July 18, 2013 at 4:12 am | Reply
      • dm387

        Nah, last I checked, they brought Africans to do the dirty work

        July 18, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
      • M.A.P.

        @dm386 – ok mr know it all. You sound like a real smug bas-tard.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:12 am |
      • msbernardi

        Thank you. My grandparents left Italy and worked hard so that their children and grandchildren could have a better life. They were legal immigrants but had to sustain the bigotry of people like Signor Freddie!

        July 23, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • from beyond the arc

      Freddie Know-Nothing! We can always count on you to represent the worst of humanity!

      July 18, 2013 at 5:26 am | Reply
    • Bill

      Freddie you must have Had a bad childhood and i pity you for that but you must take a walk down your childhood and ask your parents questions too cause they raised you ignorantly, i wonder what kind of family you Had growing up! A lonely,scared and unloved child!. 2013 has no place for bigots like you or the likes of Calderoli! You're from a forgotten era living in the past. I don't blame you i blame your parents but please live long to see the future and embrace it cause you can't fight it. Enter the schools, parliament and the national team and It's just a start. People like you give this great nation a bad name and should be striped off your citizenship cause you don't deserve it!

      July 19, 2013 at 6:24 am | Reply
    • Miriam

      Low birth rate is the problem. Encourage your women to give birth to more children; otherwise, you are a dying species and your will be replaced by Blacks and Muslims.

      July 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Reply
    • msbernardi

      Excuse me Mr. Freddie, but many Italians would not do the jobs North Africans are willing to do to make a better life for their children. Please keep in mind that a movie was made about this in Treviso, Veneto in which a company ownere spoke as you have. The following day his company was at a standstill. He wished that all North Africans/muslims would leave Italy. When they disappeared, he had no one to work in his factory. This movie was banned from Treviso because they could not face the truth. Businesses hire illegal immigrants to save money on taxes and then they openly complain about immigration and the high unemployment rate. Tell me, Signor Freddie, are you or your friends willing to do work in those factories to take the places of these illegal immigrants? If you are, step forward. Have your friends step forward. Suggest that those unemployed take the places of these illegal immigrants.

      July 23, 2013 at 1:47 am | Reply
      • freddie

        Luckily Europe is automating rapidly and will soon not need trash from Africa. This politician is NOT Italian. I look at the beautiful history of Europe being trashed by the huge influx if Africans. They drain out social support systems, vandalize public transport and breed until they can't sustain themselves. Italy and France will cease to exist as the cultural centres if Europe. European cities will soon resemble the slums of Africa. And like locusts, these immigrants will then move on to the next place to defecate.

        July 25, 2014 at 2:09 am |
  7. Corina

    Ha ha ha and we will continue pouring in Europe.Where do you think all this Wealth came from? Your Ancenstors stole them from Africa and we are here to get them Back.

    July 18, 2013 at 3:12 am | Reply
  8. ashok

    Many countries in southern Europe, Spain, for example, also Greece, have youth unemployment close to Italy's 40%. These are the people who should have been settling down, getting married, starting a family, planning to buy an apartment. Instead, they will fuel anger and frustration on the streets. Government leaders ought to consider whether the pursuit of unsustainable fiscal policies and a culture of societies living beyond their means is not presenting these young women and men with part of the check.

    July 18, 2013 at 3:16 am | Reply
  9. Corina

    Blacks and Muslims are not Europes problems you guys did not think you could sometime go down? Your Politicians are the most corrupt people on earth and your Race the most racist too

    July 18, 2013 at 3:33 am | Reply
  10. M.A.P.

    Italy is a failed state. The corruption and incompetence is astounding and they are an embarassment for Europe. They act like a bunch of school children.

    July 18, 2013 at 4:08 am | Reply
  11. Afro Tek

    Wow, in that case we should kick out of all Italian from Toronto, and New York. C’mon people wake up it is 2013 things are changed, if you are a failure in your life blame yourself no other successful people no matter what their color of skin is. The good thing is the dumbest people (racist) in any country are the minority, so I have faith on the majority of the Italian population to embrace everyone.

    July 18, 2013 at 7:28 am | Reply
  12. M.A.P.

    There are entire Italian areas in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, Germany etc etc etc. How would you like it if those countres said "get out"? Racism is a disease for the stupid.

    July 18, 2013 at 10:49 am | Reply
    • dm387

      Add Brazil to that list

      July 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Reply
  13. Frank

    Italians have immigrated all over the world in search for a better life. It is a downright disgrace that a member of Parliament and VP of the Senate would make this statement. He needs to go! However as some previous comments have stated, Italy does not owe its wealth or culture to any of its former colonial possessions. I believe that honor belongs to the British and the French first and foremost. I very much doubt any of Italy's colonies ever brought any serious wealth to it, unlike many other European powers!

    July 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  14. Tamaraukuro

    The truth is that, their riches & developments is come from immgrant

    July 19, 2013 at 6:11 am | Reply
  15. Adam979

    I wonder why CNN allows such obviously intellectualy challenged and racist posters so often. CNN IP banned me for saying something mildly critical about Israel and it's funding of US politicians. I'm only back because I moved house!

    July 22, 2013 at 5:14 am | Reply
  16. Marie

    Black people are not the problem, and I'm happy to see a black woman in a cabinet post. But unfortunately, Islam is a threat to Europe.

    July 22, 2013 at 5:52 am | Reply
    • Miriam

      In what way Muslims are a threat to Europe? Explain it to me please, and watch your words. Words have weight. Muslims are all over Europe, and they are law-abiding and peaceful citizens like anyone else. Muslims are humans just like you. All they care about is raising their children in a peaceful world.

      July 22, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  17. msbernardi

    Italians are losing a generation not because of the economy but because the educational system does not function, or rather it functions based on a system that was devised eons ago and is controlled by a cadre of teachers that have little or no training in modern instructional skills or any idea of what it means to teach or be held accountable for the performance and success of their students. They continue to use the same process as was used 200+ years ago without questioning WHY students are not successful. Those students who are successful come from wealthy families, are outliers, or escape to study in other countries. Excellent libraries are scarce, the resources are limited and buildings are shockingly in bad condition, and, in general, not many families even have a dictionary in their homes. Even parents behave in an ignorant manner. My daughter's friend, an excellent student in middle school was blocked from attending a high school preparing young people for the university by her own parents....they wanted her to study to be a secretary to help out in their own firm....disgusting! The Italians are their own worst enemy. Unless they completely revise their educational system and modernize both resources and pedagogy (see Finland, for example), they will continue to have "lost generations". (written by an Italian American delusioned with Italy after 15 years of having children in the Italian school system!)

    July 23, 2013 at 1:38 am | Reply
  18. Chukwuemeka

    I support the call for his resignation, he has let many Italians down. He and others like him should realize that Italy is now a nation made up of different nationalities and so no class or creed is above the other.

    July 23, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Reply
  19. freddie

    I am sure the people of London or Boston don't agree with you.

    July 25, 2014 at 2:11 am | Reply

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