Thousands amassed on Friday in the northern Italian town of Verona for a peace rally against tens of euro-billions in arms spending by Italy’s cash-strapped government.
The Italian peace movement will come together to call on the centre-left-right coalition administration to end its 14 billion euros funding of 90 F35 fighter-bombers.
The call from peace campaigners came as new PM Matteo Renzi unveiled a populist budget of tax cuts to be funded largely by big reductions in public spending.
Renzi has said he’ll “review” spending on the Lockheed Martin fighter-bombers – and cut 150 million from the budget – but campaigners say the pledge is too vague and too little. A campaign launched by Avaaz, the online campaigners, has garnered half a million signatures in opposition to the F35 acquisiton programme.
Italy’s debt is at record levels, and now exceeds two trillion euros, equivalent to 132.6% of GDP.
April 25 is Liberation Day, marking the freeing of Italy from dictators Hitler and Mussolini by partisans and allied forces in 1945.
Italy’s constitution, drafted after the defeat of fascism and return to democracy ‘repudiates war”, but the country ‘continues to arms itself’ the organisers of the peace rally said, adding:
“The resistance is now called non-violence. Liberation is now called disarmament. We increase military spending to build new weapons of war. Our country is in a deep economic and social crisis, it is sliding in all the European and international indicators of well-being and civilization, but we continue to be among the top ten military powers in the world, in the most expensive arms race in history.”
Even if he did not explicitly endorse the call to cut the arms budget, Friday’s initiative was given the blessing of Pope Francis. Unions, Greenpeace and an array of civil society organisations attended the rally, alongside some big names in the world of arts and entertainment.