Naples is a city at the point of collapse, said Guido Ruotolo in Turin’s La Stampa. Over the past few months, it has gradually disappeared under piles of garbage rotting away in the searing heat. The stench is unbearable, and there’s a very real risk of disease. City residents are at the end of their tether, but don’t know whom to turn to. The regional governor, Antonio Bassolino, has been under investigation since March for corruption in relation to waste disposal contracts, and now the team that’s supposed to be handling the crisis has been placed under house arrest for the same reason. Meanwhile all attempts to set up new landfill sites and incinerators have been blocked. Local protestors have barricaded their streets with rubbish to stop such facilities from being built in their neighborhoods.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who returned to power in April, vowed to sort out the mess “with an iron fist,” said Naples’ Il Mattino in an editorial. At a special Cabinet meeting in Naples, he even ordered the army to crush local dissent against new landfills. But any improvement is going to take months, since practically all the city’s experts are under suspicion of wrongdoing.

I blame the prosecutors, said Pierluigi Battista in the Milan Corriere della Serra. They claim that city officials flagrantly disregarded EU regulations by handing out export licenses for “ecoballs”—compressed packs of rubbish sent to Germany to be burned for power generation—without first bothering to extract dangerously toxic waste. The theory is that officials were taking bribes from dodgy firms to turn a blind eye to the rules, but it’s far more likely they were just bending them to get quick results. Call it misplaced zeal if you like, but it almost looks as if someone is encouraging the prosecutors to bring the whole operation to a standstill.

That would be a boon to Naples’ Mafia, the Camorra, said mob expert
Chiara Marasca in Bonn, Germany’s General-Anzeiger. Neapolitan gangsters find rubbish disposal just as lucrative as drugs: For years, and with the connivance of local officials, they’ve been taking toxic waste off the hands of rich northern cities and stuffing it into landfills in Naples; once those were full, they just dumped the stuff in open fields. Government standards were then relaxed to try to move the garbage out of sight. This made it easier for gangsters to grab rubbish contracts—bad enough, but in many cases the work was never even done. The few who dare to stand up to the gangsters take their lives in their own hands. Last week, a fourth state witness against the Camorra was murdered. Only when the mob is defeated will Naples have clean streets again.