Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Media accused of pro-protester bias in Ferguson

Read more

DEBATE

The Murderous Lure of Jihad: Tackiling ISIS and its Worldwide Recruitment (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

The Murderous Lure of Jihad: Tackiling ISIS and its Worldwide Recruitment

Read more

FOCUS

Republicans block Obama's bid to hike minimum wage

Read more

WEB NEWS

Calls for ISIS media blackout after execution of James Foley

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users divided over Darren Wilson

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users take on 'Ice Bucket Challenge' to fight ALS

Read more

ENCORE!

From Paris's Liberation to 'arresting' art in Avignon

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Ferguson riots: Pressure mounts on Obama

Read more

  • US says Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen'

    Read more

  • Two US Ebola patients leave hospital ‘virus-free’

    Read more

  • Hollande is ‘nobody’s president’ says former French minister

    Read more

  • Turkey’s Erdogan names foreign minister Davutoglu as next PM

    Read more

  • US reaches historic $16.7bn settlement with Bank of America

    Read more

  • Special report: Supplying Ukraine’s soldiers on the front line

    Read more

  • US forces tried to rescue slain reporter from IS captors

    Read more

  • Israeli air strike kills three top Hamas commanders

    Read more

  • France delivered arms to Syrian rebels, Hollande confirms

    Read more

  • Tensions high in Yemen as Shiite rebel deadline looms

    Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

  • French village rallies behind besieged elderly British couple

    Read more

  • Former Irish PM Albert Reynolds dies at 81

    Read more

  • Former Femen activist detained after fighting veiled woman

    Read more

  • Thailand coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha voted prime minister

    Read more

  • Brazil’s Silva launches bid after Campos plane crash death

    Read more

  • Brutal IS beheading video sparks social media pushback

    Read more

Americas

Berlusconi's 'death flight' joke stirs Argentine wrath

Latest update : 2009-02-19

Argentina's government has reacted furiously to a joke about Latin American "death flights" allegedly made by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and has summoned Italy's ambassador to Buenos Aires for an explanation.


AFP - Italy's gaffe-prone leader Silvio Berlusconi became embroiled in a row with Argentina on Wednesday after making a joke about the South American's country's 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Buenos Aires reacted furiously and summoned the Italian ambassador after hearing of Prime Minister Berlusconi's remarks alluding to "death flights" in which political prisoners were drugged and dumped into the sea from planes.

The Argentine government "voiced its displeasure and unease at the quotes attributed to Berlusconi" during a meeting with Italy's ambassador in Buenos Aires, Stefano Ronca, a Argentinean foreign ministry source said.

"Ronca said the statements were being verified, and agreed to inform the government (swiftly)," the source added.

The remarks in question were made on Friday when Berlusconi attended an electoral meeting in Sardinia.

In remarks that now appear on YouTube, Berlusconi refers to "that Argentinean dictator who did away with his opponents by taking them up in an airplane with a football then opening the door and saying 'it's a nice day outside go and play.'"

"It's funny but it's dramatic," he then added.

An estimated 30,000 people went missing and are presumed dead during the last Argentine dictatorship, including at least 100 Italian nationals.

Argentina and Italy normally have close and cordial relations. More than half of all Argentines are descended from Italian immigrants.

The row escalated later Wednesday when the Italian government issued its own statement, describing the reaction of Buenos Aires as "a slanderous attack" on Berlusconi that was "totally unjustified" and had incurred Rome's "wrath".

It said the row was being blown out of all proportion and that Berlusconi's words had been completely twisted when it was clear he "was underlining the brutality of the 'death flights' of the Argentinean dictatorship."

"It's a misunderstanding" an Italian government source told AFP.

"The head of government wanted to underline the cruelty of the crimes committed against the opposition and the tragedy of those who disappeared, in order to explain the extent to which he himself was offended and insulted when opponents compare him to Hitler or Videla."

Jorge Rafael Videla was the leader of the 1976 coup in Argentina and led the military dictatorship for the next five years when repression of the opposition reached a peak.

Berlusconi is no stranger to gaffes. Only last month he came under a hail of criticism after he said he wished there were enough soldiers to protect "beautiful girls" from rape.

The remarks came after two rapes in the Rome area prompted Berlusconi to announce his government would increase to 30,000 the number of soldiers helping police patrol the streets of crime-prone Italian cities.

Last year he offended Spanish female politicians when he said the new Madrid government comprising nine women and eight men was "too pink" and would "be hard to manage."

He also caused international outrage last November when he twice made reference to then US president-elect Barack Obama's "suntan."

Date created : 2009-02-18

COMMENT(S)