Culture Of Corruption Creeps Into Italian Life Ahead of regional elections later this month, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing coalition is facing a storm of accusations over alleged corruption. Beyond politics, many Italians report a "feeling of decay" amid a culture of fraud. An estimated one-third of Italians evade their taxes.
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Culture Of Corruption Creeps Into Italian Life

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Culture Of Corruption Creeps Into Italian Life

Culture Of Corruption Creeps Into Italian Life

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Here's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Last April, the town of L'Aquila was devastated by an earthquake. Eleven months later, residents left homeless protested against unfulfilled government promises that the city would be rebuilt.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTORS SPEAKING ITALIAN)

POGGIOLI: Berlusconi, who currently faces two corruption trials of his own, is pushing bills that would sharply curb the judiciary's ability to use wiretaps, which he deplores.

SILVIO BERLUSCONI: (Through translator) We are already living in a police state. Our phones are tapped, our conversations are leaked to the newspapers. This is a barbaric system.

POGGIOLI: Anti-Mafia prosecutor Enzo Macri says organized crime no longer lurks behind the scenes, but is now a direct political player.

ENZO MACRI: (Through translator) This is the end of a long march to conquer the heart of state institutions. This shows the Mafia holds sway over large portions of territory, through control of electoral ballots, control of the economy and control of politics. The circle is closed.

POGGIOLI: Court president Tullio Lazzaro said corruption is now part of our culture and the law is no longer sufficient.

TULLIO LAZZARO: (Through translator) Given this situation, it's unlikely a foreign investor has any reason to invest in our country.

POGGIOLI: Demonstrator Giorgio Priori said corruption has stifled the economy.

GIORGIO PRIORI: There are no prospects. A lot of us are starting to go outside Italy to look for a job somewhere in Europe, or in America, in Canada. Not here. Here, it is very difficult.

POGGIOLI: Lucio Manisco, former European Parliament MP, recalled a previous round of corruption scandals two decades ago that wiped out an entire political establishment. But he fears this time, many Italians see Berlusconi as an ideal role model.

LUCIO MANISCO: He's classical example that people try to imitate. Because they say if he can do whatever he wants to make money, so why not us? Italy is the most corrupted country in Europe. So, there is a feeling of decay of Italian society.

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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