Italian politician Bossi out of coma but faces paralysis

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The Independent Online

After nearly a month in a coma, the man who says he wants to split Italy in two has regained consciousness.

After nearly a month in a coma, the man who says he wants to split Italy in two has regained consciousness.

Umberto Bossi, Minister for Reforms in Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government, had been comatose in hospital in Varese, northern Italy, after collapsing with heart failure on 11 March.

Mr Bossi's family imposed a news blackout on his condition, only broken on Monday evening with the hospital's statement that he had regained consciousness, and was able to move his right limbs, react to commands and recognise his family. His supporters' fears that he might have suffered brain damage were not fully dispelled by the information made public. At the very least he is semi-paralysed.

Mr Bossi, a former labourer and guitarist, barged his way into public life in the early 1990s, championing the right of "hard-working northern Italians" to enjoy the fruits of their labour, if necessary by cutting themselves off from the poorer regions. In 1996 he ceremonially inaugurated the new nation of "Padania", his own fanciful invention, consisting of Italy north of the River Po, with its capital in Milan.

Mr Bossi's support for Mr Berlusconi has been closely tied to the precedence given to federal reforms. Ironically, while in a coma his most significant political initiative, a devolution reform bill, cleared its first parliamentary hurdle.

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