The prime minister was true to her word. She had promised from Berlin that she would speak out on Sunday with her views on the Delmastro-Donzelli scandal [in which FdI deputy Donzelli revealed on the Chamber floor sensitive information he had gotten from FdI Justice Undersecretary Delmastro that four PD lawmakers had met with Cospito, the anarchist serving life in prison and currently on hunger strike, as well as with convicted Mafia bosses fighting against the 41-bis solitary confinement regime – n.tr.].
In the morning, she wrote a letter to the Corriere della Sera, barreling ahead in defense of the two. She was certainly not as gauche as the two underlings, notoriously without filter. Quite the contrary, she weighed her words and her tone carefully. She even added the obligatory self-criticism.
“Voices have been raised too much, and I invite everyone, starting with the representatives of the FdI, to lower them back to the level of a frank but respectful debate.” However, we must not be fooled by her delicately worded apparent rebuke. Giorgia Meloni didn’t only defend her charges to the fullest, but took up and reiterated all their arguments.
“I find it paradoxical that the parties of the left cannot be held accountable for their choices, when the visit to Cospito lies at the origin of the controversy” – Giorgia Meloni
She shut down any talk of resignations: “I don’t believe the necessary conditions are present in any way.” After all, Justice Minister Carlo Nordio cleared Delmastro and Donzelli of wrongdoing, which Meloni dutifully repeated. The accusations made by Donzelli, in his frenzied speech on the Chamber floor, were “certainly excessive.” But boys will be boys, as it were, and let he who is without sin cast the first stone – and that surely can’t be those who previously described her in such stark terms as “moral instigator of the deaths at sea,” she says.
Her defense of the two FdI deputies was predictable, foreshadowed by her silence in the previous days. However, the prime minister went further: she followed them in lashing out against the PD. It seems “paradoxical” to her that one cannot “hold the parties of the left accountable for their choices.” They are the guilty ones, because “objectively,” at the origin of the whole affair lies “the visit of qualified representatives of the PD” to Cospito, precisely when “the detainee was intensifying his efforts to communicate with the outside world.” And it’s even worse, she claims: “Knowing full well how much it suits the Mafia to question [the 41-bis isolation regime],” and despite being made aware by the diligent Donzelli “of the relationship between Cospito and the [Mafia] bosses,” influential leaders of the PD “continued to call for the revocation of the [41-bis] regime for Cospito,” while pretending to ignore “the implications that such a choice would have in the fight against organized crime.”
Meloni’s letter is explicit and deliberately clear. The prime minister doesn’t want to correct even an iota of the FdI deputies’ attacks. She confirms, reiterates, piles on. After all, Donzelli’s words weren’t said in the heat of the moment – they follow a clear strategy designed to evade any possible criticism for choosing to put Cospito’s life in danger for no reason whatsoever and to turn the tables by putting the PD on the defensive, with the accusation that they’re helping the Mafia, if not from corrupt intentions, at least by carelessness. Not to mention that they’re undermining the “holiest of holies,” the article 41-bis regime. It is no coincidence that on Sunday, FdI group leader Foti presented a motion that would force the government to deny Cospito a suspension of the 41-bis regime. If the left dares to vote against, it will be immediately labeled a friend to the Mafia.
This political maneuvering is succeeding on all counts. The PD, after insisting for many days that the prime minister should express her view, responded (too many hours later) with a statement that only appeared combative, but was actually entirely defensive. Letta and group leaders Malpezzi and Serracchiani started off on a high note: Meloni’s letter “reignites the fire instead of putting it out. Words from a party leader who is defending her own beyond the indefensible, and is reviving disingenuous and despicable polemics to do so.”
However, the PD spends the rest of its statement on refuting the accusations of the former MSI politician. It has to mention that the party “has in its DNA the defense of freedom, democracy,” etc.; the “many who were left behind, victims of our intransigence against terrorism”; the “firm line we hold today against attempts to subvert the established order, which do not and will never see us take an ambiguous position.” Oozing from every line and every sentence is the fear that FdI’s slanders will catch on and the PD will be seen, if not as a friend of the mobsters, at least as not intransigent enough against them.
This is precisely the terrain where the premier and her henchmen (who only seemed to be carried away in the moment while making those incendiary claims) wanted to take the PD, after they successfully did so with the M5S. It’s treacherous terrain, where asking to suspend the 41-bis regime for a prisoner whose life is at risk, without any danger to the institutions, becomes equivalent to complicity with the Cosa Nostra. This is the terrain on which the PD has always tried to catch up with the right, out of breath and falling behind – all with disastrous outcomes that were entirely predictable.
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