The Guardian 22 November, 2006
US base in Italy
The council of the northern Italian city of Vicenza narrowly approved a project for the expansion of existing US military facilities there. Premier Romano Prodi is under considerable pressure to block the plans.
Vicenza already hosts a US military base with 2600 troops. The expansion project would involve building barracks at Vicenza’s airport Dal Molin to accommodate 2400 more US troops who are currently stationed in Germany.
Although the plan was approved by the centre-right council headed by Vicenza Mayor Enrico Hullweck, the final say rests with the government and in particular centrist Defence Minister Arturo Parisi. Parisi has spoken in favour of the base’s expansion, arguing that it is in the spirit of friendship between Italy and the US and would be a natural extension of the current US military presence in Vicenza.
But the Democratic Left (DS), the largest party in the coalition government, and smaller parties including the Greens, the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) and the Party of Italian Communists (PDCI) have protested against the base.
Local Vicenza members of the PDCI accused the mayor of trying to "militarise Vicenza against the wishes of the people" and urged the government to adopt a swift and unequivocal position.
DS Senator Felice Casson described it as being "far removed from citizens’ concerns and anchored in the strategic thinking of the past". "It’s obvious that this government’s foreign policy is different from that of the American administration", Casson said, referring to the centre left’s Europe-focused policy and its decision to pull Italian troops out of Iraq.
Welfare Minister Paolo Ferrero, a member of the PRC, said that an expanded base would "reduce Italian territorial sovereignty". He said Vicenza citizens should be allowed to decide for themselves via a referendum, a proposition not acceptable to the council.
Local polls have shown that 84 percent of citizens would like to have a say on the issue. The same polls revealed that 61 percent of residents are against expanding the base. The PRC said that "Vicenza council’s decision to accept America’s request for the expansion of the base should count nothing towards the final verdict, which is up to the government... We expect the government to nix the project in line with its pacifist manifesto."
The agreement follows hot on the heels of the closure of a controversial US nuclear submarine base in Sardinia.
US military sources have denied press reports that in the future missile launchers, unmanned Predator aircraft or artillery will be deployed at Dal Molin.
Major U.S. Bases in Latin America and the Caribbean Number of Military Personnel Stationed or Maximum Allowed
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba 774
Soto Cano, Honduras 500
Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico 3,000
Manta, Ecuador 475
Comalapa, El Salvador About 15 / but no limit
Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico 2,635
Source: International Relations Centre