Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Italy Hosts the G8

In several hours, Italy will host the 2009 G8 in L'Aquila, the city devastated by April's earthquake. The conference of the world's wealthiest nations was moved from its original destination of La Maddalena on the island of Sardinia, once the earth violently struck the Abbruzzo region. Berlusconi wanted to bring more international attention and possible funding to this ill-stricken area of the country.

As Mauro Biani's vignette shows, tension remains about just how helpful the G8 can be for the city and its people. At the moment, citizens cannot move freely to and from their houses/tents for safety reasons. The summit is actually located in a type of fortress provided by the buildings and walls of the Guardia di Finanza, situated outside of the dilapidated city center. Just about no one is allowed near G8's official borders. It is most likely that everything will take place inside of those walls, in isolation, as is customary for this kind of summit.

Meanwhile, the people of L'Aquila are waiting for temporary housing to be built with in the form of wooden houses. Many cannot re-inhabit their own houses because the earthquake damaged their structures too much. So they are living in the hot and cold, depending on the season, of blue emergency tents with 8 or 9 people sharing a single one. They hope that the government's promise of funds and housing will bear its fruits before winter falls, which is early in this high-altitude area: a late September deadline.

According to media sources, it seems that only Onna, the most tragically destroyed town in the earthquake area, has just 2 houses which are almost complete at this July date. That area will be visited by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who has taken special interest in the town.

Looking in other directions, the traditional fear of G8 demonstrations is mounting. University students around the country have begun their actions. The police are beefed up around L'Aquila to deter whatever resistance against the G8 status which may occur. Politicians are on edge.

The nerves this year are not coming from just this summit and the possibility that even frustrated Aquilean grandmas will muster when faced with big politics. They also originate from Berlusconi's ongoing sensational press, which is both national and international. He has failed to explain his relationship with an aspiring 18-year-old model, Naomi, and the reason for inviting several escorts to his house in Rome.

Let's watch what will unfold in the fortress, L'Aquila and for Berlusconi, as he hosts the G8 for the fourth time in his career as leader of Italy. This should be old hat by now!

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