Populist Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini made a veiled reference to the late fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on Sunday.
Salvini tweeted “tanti nemici, tanto onore,” meaning “so many enemies, so much honor,” a variation on Mussolini’s famous “molti nemici, molto onore,” or “many enemies, much honor.” He tweeted the comments on the anniversary of Mussolini’s birth.
Salvini’s tweet came in response to a magazine article about Salvini’s critics, including the Catholic Church and leading left-wing intellectuals, and his coinciding rise in popularity.
Separately, in an interview with the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper, Salvini, from the right-wing League party, said Italy’s low birth rate is being used as an excuse to “import immigrants.”
“A country which does not create children is destined to die,” he said. “We have created a ministry of the family to work on fertility, nurseries, on a fiscal system which takes large families into account. At the end of this mandate, the government will be measured on the number of newborns more than on its public debt.”
He said that Italy’s “tradition, our story, our identity,” was at stake as the left uses the fertility crisis as an “excuse” to “import migrants”.
Last week the leading Roman Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana called Salvini the devil in a blistering critique of the interior minister’s migration proposals.
The magazine ran a front cover with a Latin headline: “Vade retro, Salvini,” a play on Jesus’ words: “Get behind me, Satan.”
In the interview with the Sunday Times, Salvini expressed admiration for both US President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, saying Trump was “brave” in his election campaign and has been “consistent” since entering the White House. He said Putin’s economic policies have filled the Russian people with “pride.”
Salvini’s comments come as Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte arrives in Washington for a summit with Trump on Monday.
As head of the most populist government in Western Europe, Conte is arguably Trump’s closest ideological ally in Europe, and as such, a major concern for the European Union.
Mahatir Pasha contributed to this report.