Naples Magistrates See Mafia Role In Waste Protest
Author: Laura Viggiano and Silvia Aloisi
Prosecutors in Naples are investigating whether members of the local mafia are involved in protests against a new rubbish dump near Italy's third biggest city, a judicial source said on Monday.
Residents of Terzigno, a garbage-strewn town at the foot of Mount Vesuvius where the planned new dump is located, have staged a month-long protest, complaining of a foul smell and toxic waste.
Initially peaceful, the protests have turned violent over the past week, with demonstrators repeatedly clashing with police at night, throwing petrol bombs against garbage trucks and setting cars on fire.
The government promised swift action at the weekend, but the clashes have continued. Three youths armed with iron clubs were arrested overnight after they attacked two police cars, injuring a policeman.
The nature of the clashes has prompted the probe by prosecutors, who suspect members of the Camorra -- Naples' mafia, which makes a fortune from illegally dumping and burning toxic waste -- may have infiltrated the protest.
"There are elements pointing to criminal groups interfering in the protests," the source said, without elaborating.
The source said the probe was at an early stage and it was not immediately clear how Camorra mobsters would benefit from fomenting the protests, as the mafia usually prefers to get on with business away from the spotlight.
The Camorra has been turning waste into cash for decades in and around Naples, according to environmental group Legambiente.
Until 1994, when local authorities took charge of the region's landfills, it controlled most, if not all, of the dumps.
The gangsters still make fortunes in industrial waste transport by dumping and burning toxic refuse in the countryside -- a major source of pollution blamed for higher than normal rates of certain cancers in the region.
Legambiente estimates that mafia involvement in crimes against the environment yield a turnover of 7 billion euros ($9.83 billion) a year.