Italy’s new agriculture minister @MauMartina & a glimmer of hope?

chinse racism italy

Translation: [TITLE] “A region that supports its businesses.” [LEFT CAPTION] “The competition from China is unfair.” [RIGHT CAPTION] “From now on, no more spring rolls. Waiter, bring me some polenta!” (Source: “Allegro ma non troppo” [“Happy But Not Too Happy”], newly appointed Italian agriculture minister Maurizio Martina’s comic-strip blog.)

“I was born on September 9, 1978 in Calcinate [Bergamo province, Lombardy] and I live in Mornico al Serio [also Bergamo province],” writes Italy’s new agriculture minister Maurizio Martina in the about page on his blog. “My father and mother have always been factory workers. My grandparents were farmers. I have a brother who works as an artisan and my sister is an office worker. I studied political science in college.”

At age 35, Martina, a democrat, is the youngest person ever to hold the post.

He was appointed by the youngest prime minister in Italy’s history, Matteo Renzi, who took power on Saturday after ousting his rival, forty-seven year old Enrico Letta, in a bold political coup last week.

Renzi, a democrat and former mayor of Florence who had never before held national office, has promised radical reforms, including sweeping electoral reforms brokered with ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

(Click here for yesterday’s New York Times coverage of Renzi’s inaugural speech.)

Despite optimism that Renzi’s government will be able to reverse Italy’s lingering recession and to renew hope among young people, Martina and Renzi, together with the “youngest cabinet” in Italy’s history, have many challenges to face in Italy’s well entrenched parliament, with its byzantine alliances.

Martina’s youth, proletariat roots, and folksy aphorisms (published via his blog), will surely appeal to young grape growers and winemakers in Italy.

His progressive attitudes, as expressed through his Twitter, do not seem to preclude nationalistic leanings (like that espoused in the comic above) in a country where racially charged comments about the Chinese are not uncommon in bourgeois circles.

Although there is little indication of his approach to policy beyond his association with the left-leaning Democratic Party, his appointment is viewed as a much needed break from Berlusconi’s politically driven appointments to the post.

His youthful demeanor is a welcome breath of fresh air to many in the wine industry, especially in the wake of predecessor Luca Zaia (minister in Berlusconi’s cabinet, the last appointee to drive any substantive policy changes), who openly expressed racist attitudes and who favored aggressive, however contradictory, protectionist policy.

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