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100,000 Protest to 'Turn Up Heat' on Rome Gov't

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Demonstrators applaud during the left-wing Italian metalworkers' union FIOM rally in downtown Rome Piazza San Giovanni on May 18, 2013. (Filippo Monteforte)Roughly 100,000 protesters marched through Rome on Saturday to say they are fed up with Italy's austerity heavy policies and climbing unemployment.

The protest was lead by major trade unions including the FIOM and CGIL, with the intention of placing pressure on the country's new Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

"We hope that this government will finally start listening to us because we are losing our patience," protester Enzo Bernardis told Reuters.

Reuters reports:

Less than a month in power, Letta is trying to hold together an uneasy coalition between his center-left Democratic party and the center-right People of Freedom, led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Confidence in the government, cobbled together after inconclusive elections, is already falling, with one poll on Friday by the SWG institute showing its approval rating had dropped to 34 percent from 43 percent at the start of the month. [...]

Letta promised to make jobs his top priority when he came to power in April after two months of political deadlock. But several protesters complained he was not sticking to his vow, focusing instead on a property tax reform outlined this week.

The masses waved red flags and held signs reading "We can't wait anymore" and "We need money to live."

Former Prime Minster Mario Monti pushed through a slew of austerity measures including "spending cuts, tax hikes and pension reform," as Reuters reports, which in turn drove the country's recession even deeper. Jobless rates are at record highs with youth unemployment at 38 percent.

"We ask the government to change [former Prime Minister Mario] Monti's and [former Prime Minister Mario Silvio] Berlusconi's politics," said FIOM leader Maurizio Landini.

"This government will last a very short time," said demonstrator Marco Silvani. "What we need is a new leftist party that fights for the rights of the people."A man wearing a mask resembling former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi during the left-wing Italian metalworkers' union FIOM rally in downtown Rome on May 18, 2013. (Filippo Monteforte)

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