December 19, 2013 - 09:38 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Thousands of protesters furious about high unemployment and a political class they regard as corrupt rallied in central Rome on Wednesday, Dec 18 demanding the resignation of Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta's government, according to Reuters.
With the highest debt burden in the euro zone after Greece, Italy - mired in its longest post-war recession - is closely watched by financial markets and European partners as a flashpoint for instability in the bloc.
Thousands of Italians have marched in cities across the country over the last nine days in protests fuelled by falling incomes, unemployment above 12 percent and over 40 percent among people below 25.
"The ruling class is made up of thieves and mafiosi, and they are destroying our country! We are better than this ... Out out out!" Danilo Calvani, a farmer who has emerged as one of the leader of the protests shouted to the cheering crowd in the Piazza del Popolo.
Attempts to address Italy's economic woes have been held up by squabbling between the coalition partners since the left and right were forced into an awkward alliance to end a political stalemate in April.
The wave of "pitchfork" protests, which began among a loosely organized group of farmers in Sicily, has prompted President Giorgio Napolitano to warn Italy could be plunged into violent social unrest unless the government swiftly introduced reforms to help struggling citizens.
About 3,000 people attended the Rome rally, fewer than expected after some original leaders of the movement refused to endorse the event, saying they feared it could be infiltrated by violent protesters.
Ringed by police, the crowd waved Italian flags while leaders of the movement from around Italy gave angry speeches blaming the government for impoverishing the country.