The front page of today's L'Arena, Verona's well-read daily newspaper, carries a stark warning about the Nigerian mafia currently operating in Verona. Quoting the Antimafia prosecutor, it describes the Nigerian criminal organization as aggressive and well-established, controlling both drug and prostitution rackets.
Also continuing to make headlines, the fallout from the brutal death of 18-year-old Pamela Mastropietro, whose dismembered remains were found last week near Macerata, a small town in central Italy.
A Nigerian drug dealer has been arrested in connection with her death. Another has been arrested for supplying drugs to the young victim. The exact circumstances surrounding the death remain the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Following the arrest of the Nigerians, Luca Traini, a known extremist and candidate for the Lega Nord in recent local elections, in an apparent act of revenge, shot and wounded 6 African migrants in Macerata on Saturday evening.
The ongoing criminal investigation and subsequent legal proceedings into events in Macerata will continue to make headlines for months and, no doubt, years to come.
Meanwhile the migrant crisis, the tragic effects of which are visible on every street corner and outside every supermarket and market stall in Italy, remains impossible to avoid and is set to be the dominant issue in the forthcoming general election.
Seeking to exploit the fear of the migrant, Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy's right wing Lega Nord, has said that "The moral responsibility of any episode of violence that happens in Italy belongs to those who have transformed Italy into a huge refugee camp." It is clear that he will continue to capitalize on events in Macerata in order to promote his own political agenda.
But now surely is not the time for political extremism.
Italy has known fascism and racial intolerance.
Moreover, Italy, with its long history of economic migration, understands better than most the grim plight of the impoverished immigrant. It too knows that criminal enterprises, prostitution, trafficking and drug-dealing, often operate at the margins of such destitute communities but that most migrants are honestly just seeking a better way of life for themselves and their families.
So, as the election in Italy on 4 March approaches, is it too much to ask that we respond to the serious issues currently facing Italian society with tolerance, reason and humility, rather than hatred, prejudice and fear?
That, I’m afraid to say, remains to be seen.
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