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Mass protests

April 4, 2009

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered on Saturday, April 4, in central Rome to demand concerted government action to combat the economic downturn.

Demonstrators gathered in the streets of Rome
Italy's largest union, the CGIL, lead the protests in RomeImage: AP
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi
Berlusconi says that Italy is doing everything it can to fight the economic crisisImage: AP

Rome's ancient Circus Maximus was a sea of red as hundreds of thousands of banner-waving demonstrators converged on the center of the Italian capital to protest the government’s response to the economic crisis.

Leaders from Italy's largest union, the CGIL, urged Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to open negotiations with them to discuss ways of dealing with the crisis.

"The government keeps making announcements instead of taking proper actions like giving a cheque to people who lose their jobs," said one protester, Achille Mantovani.

"Berlusconi talks and talks but the money never shows up."

Other protesters shouted "Ciao Silvio, ciao Silvio" as one procession meandered past the Colosseum while one worker held up a banner saying "Enough! It's time Italy fires Berlusconi."

Berlusconi has accused the media of exaggerating the situation and has insisted that Italy is doing more than other countries to address the economic downturn.

Dire straits

Guglielmo Epifani, leader of the CGIL union, delivers his speech at the end of a demonstration to protest the government's handling of the economic crisis
Union organizers say some 2.7 million people have joined the Rome rallyImage: AP

Italy's economy, Europe's fourth-largest, could contract by 4.3 percent this year as exports are hit by the global economic downturn, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said this week.

Unemployment in the country in the fourth quarter of 2008 rose to its highest level for over two years as the economic recession began to take a heavy toll on the labor market, according to data issued this week.

The seasonally-adjusted jobless rate rose to 6.9 percent from 6.7 percent in the previous three months, reaching its highest level since the second quarter of 2006, but analysts said the worst was still to come.

Some 1.73 million people are estimated to be out of out of work in Italy.

gb/tt, ap/afp/reuters

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