Giuseppe Conte, the former prime minister who heads the populist Five Star movement, called the proposal “serious and baffling” and called for Mr Durigon’s resignation. Left parties, anti-mafia associations and groups of anti-fascist fighters have expressed their outrage.
Gianfranco Pagliarulo, president of the National Association of Italian Left Supporters, wrote in Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano this month that the proposal was alarming and the latest in a series of cases in which politicians have expressed sympathies fascists – including regional officials who sang fascist songs on the radio or sponsored festivals by fringe neo-fascist groups.
“The resignation of Under-Secretary Claudio Durigon is excellent news for democracy and anti-fascism,” Pagliarulo said in a statement on Friday.
Right-wing newspapers criticized the accusations against Mr Durigon, alluding to a “cancellation of the culture of political correctness” in Italy.
Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League party, rejected the debate, saying there was no nostalgia for fascism in his party or elsewhere in Italy.
But the plains south of Rome, where Latina is located, are known to be a reservoir of fascist sentiment. In the late 1920s, the regime reclaimed land from the malaria-rife Pontine swamps, both to gain fields for cultivation and to prove that this could make the region habitable.
Workers drained swamps and built roads and infrastructure, while architects designed entire towns where the regime displaced families from northern Italy. When it was inaugurated in 1932, the town of Latina was called Littoria, in reference to the “lictors” or Roman troops who carried bundles, or bundles, symbol of authority and order which gave its name to the fascist party.