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Wednesday, 02 May 2007 11:06
May 1, 2007 – Four representatives from the campaign against a new U.S. military base in Vicenza, Italy, have arrived in Washington, D.C. and will remain until May 7. Their goal is to draw attention to the strong opposition against the planned base, which has grown from a local movement to become a national cause, an issue that contributed to the recent fall, albeit temporary, of the Italian government. They will meet with members of the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees to reaffirm the movement’s determination to stop construction of the proposed base.
“We are convinced that what Italy, indeed the world, needs is not another military base,” explains Cinzia Bottene, who has become the public face of this grassroots movement. “We welcome Americans in Vicenza to visit our beautiful treasures, learn about our rich history and enjoy our food and wine,” says Thea Valentina Gardellin. “But what we don't want are more soldiers, planes and military hardware.”
The delegation will also meet with U.S. peace activists in order to develop common strategies and garner support for their cause. And they intend to raise consciousness among U.S. citizens on the effects of foreign military bases on local populations, including urban and environmental impact, damage to the local economy and the risk of terrorist attacks.
Vicenza, a town of 120,000 and showcase of renowned Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is already home to several U.S. military installations, including Camp Ederle, which dates back to 1955. This new base will serve to unite the 173rd Airborne Brigade currently based in Italy and Germany. It will be located at the little used civilian airport Tommaso Dal Molin, right next to one of Palladio’s architectural treasures and surrounded by a residential area.
Though negotiations between the U.S. and Italian governments had been going on for over two years, news began to leak out only in May 2006. Local residents, led by the women, mounted a grassroots campaign against the base, collecting 8,000 signatures in just 10 days. They organized two massive national demonstrations, bringing people from all over Italy. The demonstration on February 17, 2007 brought over 100,000 people. They also set up a permanent camp near the site of proposed new base in early January that has become a focal point of the movement. Despite the Italian government’s approval of the project, the people of Vicenza are determined to stop the base construction, even threatening to lie down in front of the bulldozers.
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