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Killing adds to Italian tragedy

Bullet hole
A bullet hole marks the spot where Biagi was killed  

By CNN Italia's Marco Contini

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- History, in Italy, has the tragic tendency to repeat itself.

The assassination on Tuesday of Marco Biagi, an economist who served as an advisor for Italy's Labour Ministry, is only the latest of a series of violent episodes that have marked the country in the past 30 years.

It is not the first time that violence has occurred in the middle of a major social struggle. Likewise, it's not the first time that terrorists have targeted political consultants, men who are generally unknown to the general public and thus much more vulnerable.

The assassination of Biagi co-author of the controversial government paper on labour flexibility occurred on the eve of a major rally, called by Italy's main union to protest against the leading centre-right coalition's labour policy, which is to be held next Saturday.

According to the organisers, more than one million people will arrive in Rome for what will almost certainly be the biggest mass demonstration in the country's history. The rally was then to be followed, sometime in April, by a general strike.

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Biagi, a strong advocate of the proposal to modify the labour code in order to facilitate individual layoffs, was certainly an antagonist of the unions, who recently strongly criticised him for his ideas.

So, quite predictably, the immediate consequence of Biagi's assassination was an outburst of criticism on the unions.

Although no one accused them directly, both Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and the head of the Confindustria (Italy's main entrepreneurs association) Antonio D'Amato have blamed the crime on the recent "climate of hate" which they attribute to the labour unions and the centre-left parliamentary minority.

Berlusconi and Maroni
The labour reforms are being pushed by Berlusconi, left, and his Labour Minister Roberto Maroni  

It may seem a paradox, but apart from Biagi himself, the first political victims of Tuesday's crime may well become his opponents. Not surprisingly, the first reaction by moderate union leaders, on Wednesday morning, was to question the advisability of the general strike (which was later to be confirmed, though in a much less favourable climate), while Saturday's rally which was originally meant to be a joyous celebration of workers' rights - has been transformed in to a predictably gloomy demonstration against terrorism.

Almost a day after the shooting, the "Red Brigades" claimed responsibility. The group spread terror throughout the 1970s and has sometimes resurfaced after the political and military defeat it suffered at the beginning of the 1980s. It was them, three years ago, who killed Massimo D'Antona, an advisor of Italy's then centre-left government.

Another recurring characteristic of Italy's terrorism is that crimes are seldom solved. The killers of D'Antona have yet to be captured.

And only a few days ago, in the wake of a memo by the secret service on the risks of a reprisal of terrorist activities, Biagi himself had complained because he felt he could have been a possible target, and asked for his armed escort to be restored. But no one at the Interior ministry answered his call.


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