Italians who use name of Mussolini offered cash

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The Independent Online

A neo-Fascist party in the far south of Italy has promised to give €1,500 (£1,280) to every family in five impoverished villages which names a baby born in 2009 after Benito Mussolini or his wife, Rachele.

Il Movimento sociale Fiamma Tricolore describes the initiative as a way "to confront the problem of the depopulation of the region". Vincenzo Mancusi, the party's regional secretary, said the money was to be used for the baby's essentials, such as milk, nappies and clothes. The five villages had been selected, he said, because of their small populations, low birth rate and the risk that they might soon die out.

The handouts, he said, are a way "to honour the profound roots of our party. We represent the real right, and we don't forget history."

In the past 15 years the party that derived from Mussolini's Fascists, Il Movimento Sociale Italiano, was reborn under its reformist leader Gianfranco Fini as Alleanza Nazionale and is close to being merged with Mr Berlusconi's Partito della Liberta. In the process the party has ditched most of its Fascist paraphernalia, plus the anti-Semitism which led to thousands of Italian Jews dying in Nazi camps. Mr Fini has visited Israel to condemn Mussolini's anti-Semitic policies.

Basilicata is one of the four poorest regions of Italy, with 23 per cent of households below the poverty line. Its oil extraction industry has done little to raise the standard of living in the countryside. The donation, admits Mr Mancusi, "will not resolve the problem of the depopulation of the region, but is a small gesture by a small party".

The name Benito fell out of fashion after Mussolini's demise. Rachele, originally a Jewish name, did not suffer the same fate, though neither figures among the top 100 names in Italy.

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