- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — A Chicago bakery owner and a Philadelphia insurance agent, both newly elected to Italy’s parliament, say Italians living abroad should gain new recognition now that they for the first time have their own representatives.

“I hope Italians get to know how important the Italian community abroad is to Italy,” said Renato Turano, 63, of Chicago who on Tuesday won the first Senate seat to represent an estimated 400,000 Italians in North and Central America.

The North and Central America district’s two seats in the Chamber of Deputies, parliament’s lower house, went to Salvatore Ferrigno, 46, of the Philadelphia area, and Gino Bucchino, a 58-year-old physician from Toronto.

“Now we have a voice in Italy’s parliament,” Mr. Bucchino said.

Italian expatriates from four new electoral districts around the world elected 12 representatives to the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies and six to the 315-seat Senate.

After the votes abroad were counted Tuesday, Italy’s Interior Ministry assigned Romano Prodi’s center-left coalition four of the six Senate seats set aside for expatriates, giving his opposition bloc 158 Senate seats to 156 for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right coalition — the bare minimum needed for a majority.

Mr. Turano, who immigrated to Chicago from Cosenza, Italy, when he was 15, said it was time for Italians to put the bitterly fought election behind them.

“Italy has been split in half,” Mr. Turano said of the election. “This is an opportunity for Italians to come together, whether we’re in Italy or living abroad.”

Mr. Turano and Mr. Bucchino ran on Mr. Prodi’s center-left L’Unione coalition slate, while Mr. Ferrigno supports Mr. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, but they said they looked forward to working together to help Italians abroad acquire rights they have long sought, in particular better health care and pension benefits.

“There are many things we have that have to be changed and fixed by new laws,” Mr. Ferrigno said Tuesday from his native Sicily, where he was visiting. “We should have the same rights as Italians who are living in Italy.”

Mr. Ferrigno, who holds dual citizenship and has lived in the U.S. since 1983, said another priority would be to change laws that stripped many Italians abroad of their citizenship.

“They were born Italian, so they have a right to die Italian,” Mr. Ferrigno said of the generation of Italians who became citizens only of their adopted countries before a 1992 law was passed allowing dual citizenship.

Mr. Bucchino, who was raised in Florence, Italy, and moved to Toronto 18 years ago, said he hoped to help people in Italy learn from the example of Canada’s multiethnic society in resolving the debate about immigration.

“Italy is facing the problem of immigration, with immigrants coming from Africa and other places,” Mr. Bucchino said. “We have to teach Italians not to be afraid of another color of skin, that we can live together.”

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