Garbage crisis stirs protest in Naples

( AP ) - Stinking mounds of garbage piled up on the streets of Naples on Friday and officials around the country blamed organized crime and bureaucratic red tape for the city's refuse crisis.

Effigies of city officials, suspended from lampposts and trees, reflected the fury of Naples' citizens, who have had to live amid small mountains of their own refuse since Dec. 21, when collectors stopped gathering it because there was nowhere to take it.Residents have resorted to setting trash on fire, raising fears of toxic smoke.

"Garbage is piling up outside our building," said Angela Sepe, a Neapolitan walking on the outskirts of the city. "I don't go downstairs any more to throw it away but throw it out the window because the garbage has already reached" as high as the second-floor window.

Naples and other parts of the southern Campania region have been plagued by a series of garbage crises for more than a decade. Dumps fill up and local communities block efforts to build new ones or create temporary storage sites. In 2004, a garbage crisis prompted weeks of protests.

On Thursday, angry residents in the Pianura neighborhood in Naples' outskirts blocked a street to protest the reopening of a long-closed dump. Fire officials said four empty buses in the neighborhood were set afire overnight - apparently in protest of the dump's reopening.

About 100 young protesters marched Friday on City Hall. Some occupied a central balcony and the roof, where they hung banners protesting the reopening of the dump and demanding a full-fledged plan to improve recycling in the area, the ANSA and Apcom news agencies reported.

Local, regional and national officials handed out blame for the southern city's chronic inability to properly dispose of its trash.

Several lawmakers said the government's creation in 1994 of a special office of trash commissioner to deal with Naples' continuing garbage crisis was part of the problem.

Leading Italian daily Corriere della Sera ran a lengthy investigation Friday detailing recent findings by a parliamentary committee that allege corruption and inefficiency in the commissioner's office.

Environment Minister Antonio Pecoraro Scanio, who has been a harsh critic of the commissioner's office, also blamed what he called the "ecomafia," a reference to Naples' organized crime syndicate, the Camorra, and its hold on garbage collection.

In an interview with the free daily E Polis, Pecoraro Scanio said the only way to escape the mob's hold on Naples' garbage was to get more Neapolitans to recycle and to build technologically advanced plants to dispose of the garbage in an environmentally friendly way.

Pecoraro Scanio said the Camorra was taking advantage of the fires set by residents to get rid of toxic waste.

"The ecomafias are behind the fires that are burning Naples and that are set to burn the accumulated trash," he said. "In the chaos that is created, the Camorra is always the victor."

The effigies hanging Friday carried banners with slogans critical of Antonio Bassolino, the governor of Campania, and the city's mayor, Rosa Russo Iervolino, the Apcom news agency reported. There have been calls for days for Bassolino to resign.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi chimed in, calling for "unity" and warning that finger-pointing was making residents have even less faith in the government's ability to deal with the crisis.

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