He came to show solidarity with Italy’s earthquake victims but not everyone in the disaster zone was happy to see Prime Minister Mario Monti.
“Theves! Shame on you!” a small group shouted, booing and whistling as the technocrat premier toured the shattered community of Sant’Agostino.
Monti’s austerity drive triggered their anger. Some believe tax rises, like the quake, have caused devastation.
“Monti came, looked at two tents, went round the camp so he wouldn’t ruin his nice shoes and then went away,” said one quake victim in a makeshift camp, unimpressed with the visit of the PM and his entourage.
“He will have a nice lunch in some nice restaurant in Modena where they are going to spend 200-300 euros for each of these 50 clowns, while we are here and didn’t hear a thing, not even a greeting, a thank you. This is the Italian government.”
“Do you think anything has changed for me?” another man in the camp asked. “Look at me. Do you think something has changed? I went to the factory this morning to ask about my job. They said that maybe I have to stay at home for 13 weeks. Do you know what that means? To pay rent and keep a family? Has anything changed for him? He is going home, with his suit. We stay here.”
A state of natural catastrophe has been declared which should accelerate aid for victims. Monti raised the possibility of suspending taxes for those affected by Sunday’s 6 magnitude quake which killed seven people.
With much of its cultural heritage in ruins, the northern Emilia-Romagna region has also been damaged economically.
Business leaders say 200 firms in the rich, industrial and agricultural area have been hit hard, depriving at least 2,000 people of work in the weeks ahead. Media reports put the damage to the local economy at 500 million euros.