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Italians say No to Monti

As many as 150,000 Italians marched through Rome Saturday in what was dubbed “No Monti Day,” in reference to the unpopular policies of unelected Prime Minister Mario Monti that are sending the country into a downward spiral of recession.

Trade unionists, leftwing parties, teachers, hospital staff and other workers, non-governmental organisations, artists, members of Italy’s communist party and individual politicians, including Naples Mayor Luigi de Magistris attended.

Protestors wore giant masks of Monti and the devil, while others carried life-size puppets of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama as they passed through the city center.

The demonstration led with a banner reading “Together with Europeans who rebel – Let’s kick out the Monti Government,” in unity with protest marches in other European countries. Other demonstrators carried banners with the slogans “Away with Monti,” and “Cuts, only cuts,” to condemn structural reforms imposed by the government in a bid to ward off the eurozone debt crisis.

‘We are here against Monti and his politics, the same politics as all over Europe, that brought Greece to its knees and that is destroying half of Europe, public schools, health care,’ said Giorgio Cremaschi, one of figures behind the protest and a leading metalworker trade unionist.

Nearly 20,000 hospital staff, wearing their white gowns or uniforms demonstrated in another part of Rome against the cuts to Italy’s national health service.

Since he replaced Silvio Berlusconi in November 2001, Monti , a former advisor to Goldman Sachs bank and former European Union commissioner, has imposed tax hikes, government spending cuts and wielded the axe to the country’s pension scheme, hurting the majority.

Italy is a hugely rich country with private wealth four times the national debt but massive tax dodging by the rich – as much as €280 billion annually is denied to the Treasury between evasion and avoidance – and the lack of a comprehensive wealth tax have impoverished the state and generalised austerity measures are deepening the woes of the economy and public finances.

Italy’s unemployment rate is currently at 10.7%, the highest rate since monthly records began in 2004.

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