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FI politician jokes that blacks 'do not need make-up'

Member of parliament Santelli makes remark on TV

15 January, 15:11
FI politician jokes that blacks 'do not need make-up' (See related on Kyenge) (ANSA) - Rome, January 15 - Black woman have "good fortune" because they do not need to wear make-up, a member of the ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI) political party said Wednesday.

"Black people? They have the good fortune not to need to wear make-up like us," said Jole Santelli, an elected member of parliament representing the FI.

Santelli, a 45-year-old lawyer, make the comment during a debate about immigration during a television talk show on the public RAI network, which Congo-born Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge took part in via a link.

Immigration and racism have become particularly hot-button topics in Italy, and much abuse has been directed at Kyenge, the country's first black cabinet minister.

Kyenge was targeted again on Wednesday when a letter leaking suspicious powder and addressed to her was delivered to the premier's office in Rome. The minister, who has been the victim of a long series of racist slurs since being sworn in last April, has called the attacks "a threat to democracy". Members of the anti-immigrant Northern League have often been behind verbal abuse, with one leader likening her to an orangutan last year. On Tuesday the party's newspaper La Padania published her daily schedule as Italy's parliament debated abolishing a League-sponsored law criminalizing illegal immigration.

Kyenge, once an undocumented immigrant herself, has been at the forefront of the drive to repeal that law.