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Suspicious powder mailed to Kyenge

Northern League says feud is strictly political

15 January, 12:45
Suspicious powder mailed to Kyenge (ANSA) - Rome, January 15 - Firefighters are on the scene after a letter leaking suspicious powder addressed to Italy's first black cabinet member, Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, was delivered to the premier's office in Rome on Wednesday. The minister, who has been the victim of a long series of racist slurs since being sworn in, was quick to call the letter "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. "Kyenge is in favor of Negritude like in France, but we can do without it," Northern League Senate whip Massimo Bitonci said during the debate on the floor. The center-left Democratic Party (PD), which is in the majority of Italy's left-right coalition, promptly blasted the League and Bitonci's statement as racist and subversive.

On Wednesday the League defended the term 'Negritude', a movement founded by blacks in France in the 1930s that embraced black identity and rejected French colonial racism. "Negritude is not a racist term," said La Padania Editor-in-Chief Aurora Lussana. "Ours is a political attack on Kyenge for her absence of government action. She needs to put an end to this victimization. We've also gone after Development Minister Flavio Zanonato. I'd like to hear the choruses of indignation also for someone from the Veneto region". Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni, the former leader of the Northern League, also defended the paper's decision to publish Kyenge's schedule. "Her appointments were on the ministry website. I don't understand why opposing her must be considered racist while opposing me is considered democracy," he said.