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Italy's Meloni promises change in lawless town near Naples after rape of two minors

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni attends a joint press conference with the Polish Prime Minister at Lazienki Park in Warsaw, Poland, on July 5, 2023.
Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni attends a joint press conference with the Polish Prime Minister at Lazienki Park in Warsaw, Poland, on July 5, 2023. Copyright Wojtek Radwanski/AFP
Copyright Wojtek Radwanski/AFP
By Giulia Carbonaro
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The right-wing prime minister travelled to the crime-ridden town of Caivano after the horrifying rape of two minors, despite protests against the government's recent cuts to social benefits.

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Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni travelled to a crime-ridden town near Naples on Thursday, where two young girls were recently raped, in a controversial visit that followed the premier’s decision to cut social benefits to the generally poorer residents of the area.

Local media reported the two girls, aged 10 and 12, residents of an area called Parco Verde di Caivano (literally: Green Park of Caivano) - a social housing neighbourhood - were raped by a group of six men in an abandoned warehouse once used by the Camorra, the local mafia. 

Most of the abusers were under the age of 14, while one was 19.

According to reports, the girls were subject to the same abuse six or seven times for months on an end until July. They have been taken away from their families - who are considered guilty of ignoring signs that something was wrong with the two girls - and placed with social services in another town.

It’s not the first time that Caivano, known to be something of a lawless town, has found itself in the spotlight. For years, the area has been a location where the local mafia deals drugs and hides supplies and weapons.

In 2014, 6-year-old Fortuna Loffredo was raped and murdered by her step-father, who pushed her off a balcony on the eighth floor of a building in Parco Verde di Caivano.

Ten years ago, the area was also known as the “Land of Fires” or “Triangle of Death” due to the toxic fumes produced by burning waste illegally.

The recent rape of the two girls sparked cries for the government to visit the town and intervene to change its destiny.

But while Meloni was called by the family of the two girls to visit the town of Caivano, the right-wing prime minister received a series of death threats on social media ahead of her trip which caused alarm among authorities.

Naples - and Caivano - is one of the areas that has been most affected by Meloni’s government decision to cut social benefits linked to the Citizens’ Income, a programme launched by the former Five Star Movement leadership.

The Citizens’ Income, introduced in 2019, assigned a monthly allowance for families and individuals with low income and the unemployed. With Meloni’s changes, the benefits are being cut off from any families that do not include a disabled person, a minor, or an individual over the age of 65.

The decision to cut down on the social benefits - which was announced to families via text - sparked protests in Naples, home to the highest number of recipients.

“I’d recommend you stay home, 160,000 families have been left without Citizens’ Income and without grocery. Are you sure you’ll go back home from Caivano?,” reads one of the many messages attempting to intimidate Meloni on social media ahead of her visit.

“I hope you’ll die in Caivano,” another reads.

Meloni said that the threats won’t stop her “from fighting crime.”

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Talking during a press conference in Caivano, Meloni said: “We’re here not only to express condemnation and solidarity, but also to commit ourselves [to fixing the problem].”

She said that her visit was a symbol of the return of the Italian authorities and institutions in a territory where they had been perceived as lacking.

She added that there are many other places like Caivano at Italy’s peripheries, and promised that her government will not leave them behind after the spotlights of the media move away.

Meloni announced the government will re-qualify the sports centre in Caivano, now abandoned and in a very poor state, in the next months and increase the presence of police officers in the area. She also said that more resources will be given to local schools, which will remain open in the afternoon.

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