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Near German slayings, expats doubt vote will end mafia threat

April 7, 2008

The issue of tackling organised crime has not been especially prominent in the Italian election campaign but to ex-pat Italian residents of Duisburg in north-western Germany, it’s an emotive topic. The industrial city in the Ruhr valley made international headlines last summer when six Italians were gunned down outside a pizzeria in an apparent feud between members of the Calabrian mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta.

On a recent trip to Duisburg, Reuters correspondent Iain Rogers visited the sight of the shootings.

duisbergscene.jpg

A stone’s throw from the central station on the ground floor of an ugly tower block, the restaurant is now an empty shell. It’s dark inside and eerily quiet. The sign above the door set back from the busy road has been ripped down, wires hang from the ceiling and dust-covered chairs are strewn across the floor. Old menus and photographs of Italian dishes litter the area near the entrance. A couple of hundred metres down the road, Italian-born Renato Venier runs an ice cream cafe.

Venier, 41, hails from the north-eastern Italian town of Codroipo in the Friuli-Venezia Guilia region and has lived in Germany for 28 years. Sitting at a corner table, he reflects that organised crime is a big problem in Germany, which he blames on an influx of southern Italians.

He’s voting for Silvio Berlusconi in the election but he doesn’t believe either the conservative former prime minister or his rival on the left, Walter Veltroni, has what it takes to tackle organised crime.

“It operates above politics and the rule of law. There is too much money and power involved,” he says.

Both main candidates broached the mafia issue at the weekend, after 12 convicted mobsters were released from prison in Sicily because of a technicality ahead of an appeal. Berlusconi declared his political group “incompatible” with organised crime, while Veltroni spoke out against the mafia and an Italian justice system plagued by delays.

In Duisburg, Venier is unconvinced.

“As long as the same people are running the country there’ll never be a solution,” he says. “They don’t want to solve it as it suits them the way things are.”

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