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Italy, The Wall Between Politics And The People

Silvio Berlusconi barely survives a confidence vote, and riots erupt in a country plagued by politicians who listen only to themselves

TURIN – A political system shut off from the country produced exactly what's been predicted for months: shouts, insults, head counts, celebrations. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi barely survived a no-confidence vote. And outside, the city burns. The doors of the palazzo of Parliament are locked, separating two worlds that seem to be light years – galaxies – apart.

The columns of smoke, explosions, the deafening noise of the clashes, the cobblestones hurled, helmets, bats--they conjure the past, of course, the 1970s. But that is not where we should turn to understand what is happening. Better to look toward London, the youth attacking the banks, targeting the car of Prince Charles and Camilla; or to Greece, where the fires continue to light up the streets.

All around us, we see young people out of control, disconnected from the political parties that should be the bridge between a populace and its public representatives. Instead, they set out to destroy, convinced they have the right to take to the streets to vent their anger at a life that promises no stability, in employment and elsewhere.

The images of Rome are scary indeed, and yet so aptly depict the separation between a political system barricaded inside its walls, as its rituals so dramatically deteriorate, and a country going off the rails, without dreams or direction. The young people "playing war" with their helmets and hoods, petrol bombs and sticks, surely do not represent Italians. But the country's leaders should be able to look beyond those fires to see a silent majority that is not only fed up, but unable to continue deluding itself.

Instead politics is blind, focused on building a "red zone" for its own safety, not only to keep out the troublemakers on the street, but all Italians. And inside, they just continue to fight, bark at each other, excite their own minds without enacting any solutions.

So the country just lurches along, because for too long it has not truly been governed. No one bothers to confront and contain the delirium of the extremists, to reassure those who are afraid of the future, to stop the violence that risks reemerging. We cannot risk losing another generation, even if we speak of small fringes, even if we are against terrorism and guns.

The noise of Tuesday's clashes requires the ruling majority to take a leap of dignity, and a change of tone from the opposition: you can't call from the rooftops that the Italian police are like Pinochet's troops, without expecting to stir up the streets.

December 14th is finally over, and Berlusconi remains in the saddle, having won the latest battle in his war with Gianfranco Fini. But a government saved by three votes, secured the night before, has little to celebrate. Its only concern now should be rediscovering the ability to listen to the country, not just surviving one more day.

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Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return

Noel, a Cuban engineer who had to emigrate to the faraway island of Saint Lucia, tells about the Cuban government's systematic intimidation techniques and coercion of its professionals abroad. He now knows he can never go back to his native island — lest he should never be allowed to leave Cuba again.

Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return

Next stop, Saint Lucia

Laura Rique Valero

Daniela* was just one year old when she last played with her father. In a video her mother recorded, the two can be seen lying on the floor, making each other laugh.

Three years have passed since then. Daniela's sister, Dunia*, was born — but she has never met her father in person, only connecting through video calls. Indeed, between 2019 and 2023, the family changed more than the two little girls could understand.

"Dad, are you here yet? I'm crazy excited to talk to you."

"Dad, I want you to call today and I'm going to send you a kiss."

"Dad, I want you to come for a long time. I want you to call me; call me, dad."

Three voice messages which Daniela has left her father, one after the other, on WhatsApp this Saturday. His image appears on the phone screen, and the two both light up.

The girls can’t explain what their father looks like in real life: how tall or short or thin he is, how he smells or how his voice sounds — the real one, not what comes out of the speaker. Their version of their dad is limited to a rectangular, digital image. There is nothing else, only distance, and problems that their mother may never share with them.

In 2020, Noel*, the girls' father, was offered a two-to-three-year employment contract on a volcanic island in the Caribbean, some 2,000 kilometers from Cuba. The family needed the money. What came next was never in the plans.

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