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Italy cancel culture debate after ministry removes Mussolini photo

Mussolini photo displayed for anniversary of ministry building.

A photograph of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was removed from Italy's ministry of economic development (MISE) on Tuesday after being displayed alongside other former ministers for the building's 90th anniversary.

The ministry, headed by Giancarlo Giorgetti of the right-wing Lega party, said the image was part of an exhibition to celebrate the milestone of Palazzo Piacentini next month.

Giorgetti, tipped to become Italy's next finance minister as part of the new right-wing coalition, pointed out that Mussolini served in 1932 as the first minister of the then ministry of corporations, and that an image of Il Duce is also on display at Palazzo Chigi, seat of the Italian government.

The case came to light after a complaint from Pier Luigi Bersani, the former leader of the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD) who held the economic development portfolio from 2006 until 2008 during the Prodi government.

Bersani wrote on Twitter: "I am informed that the photographs of all the ministers, including Mussolini, are on display at the MISE. If confirmed, I kindly ask to be exempted and my photo removed."

After coming under pressure from politicians and trade unions, the ministry said that Mussolini's photograph would be taken down to "avoid controversy" and to stop the situation from "being exploited".

The newly-elected speaker of the senate, Ignazio La Russa of the far-right Fratelli d'Italia (FdI), then waded into the debate, reports Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

La Russa, who made headlines recently over a video in which he displayed his private collection of Fascist memorabilia, said Mussolini "is also in the defence ministry, [his name] is also written in the Foro Italico", asking if Italy was now engaging in "cancel culture too".

The news comes ahead of the formation of the right-wing coalition that won Italy's recent general election, poised to be led by FdI leader Giorgia Meloni as prime minister.

Cover image: The antechamber of the Sala Verde in Palazzo Chigi where the portraits of Italian prime ministers are exhibited. Photo ANSA. 

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