Philly Insurance Agent Wins Seat in Italy’s Parliament

April 17, 2006

A Philadelphia insurance agent and a Chicago bakery owner, 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 last week 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, an insurance agent from the Philadelphia area, and Gino Bucchino, a 58-year-old physician from Toronto.

“Now we have a voice in Italy’s Parliament,” 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 Prodi’s opposition bloc 158 Senate seats to 156 for Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right coalition, the bare minimum needed for a majority.

Turano and Bucchino both ran on Prodi’s center-left L’Unione coalition slate, while Ferrigno supports Berlusconi’s rival 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,” Ferrigno said in a telephone interview from his native Sicily, where he was visiting. “We should have the same rights as Italians who are living in Italy.”

Insurance agent 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,” Ferrigno said of the generation of Italians who became citizens only of their adopted countries before a 1992 law was passed allowing Italians to retain dual citizenship.

Bucchino, who was raised in Florence, Italy, and moved to Toronto 18 years ago, said he hoped to help people back 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,” said Bucchino. “We have to teach Italians not to be afraid of another color of skin, that we can live together.”

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

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