279. Telegram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State0

2956. Embtels 2908 and 29091 described our difficulties in achieving removals by GOI of remaining discrimination against dollar imports of agricultural commodities, and recommended continuing US pressure on GOI within limitations of political tolerance. Purpose of this postscript is to call attention to these limitations.

Present government, formed last August as reaction to Communist inspired mob violence which was culmination of six months of political maneuvering following fall of Segni government early in 1960, remains an uneasy coalition of four center parties. It has considerable potential for constructive achievement but is subjected to continuing strains. Three months after local elections early in November, many city and provincial administrations have yet to be formed. Very delicate operation is involved of trying to enlist cooperation of Nenni Socialist Party on limited local scale without disturbing national government coalition, which contains substantial forces implacably opposed to agreement with Nenni on any level. While involving serious short-term risks, entire operation is probably in long-term interest of Italian democracy but, in any case, it is made necessary by arithmetic of election results, and their political effects.

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Embtel 28682 described high point of near-crisis through which government has just gone, and subsequent messages have reported its gradual attenuation. Main strength of present government is lack of viable alternative, vividly demonstrated last year when almost all other possible combinations were tried, and failed. Unfortunately, energies of government leaders are largely absorbed by continuous factional and party maneuvering which daily confronts them. As result they have too little time for planning and execution of current and new programs. In any case, their margin of political power is so slight that they dare not make moves significantly vulnerable to partisan attack. Decision-making power of government is thus inhibited and this is seen with particular clarity in matters which involve special appropriations and in sensitive political sectors such as those of Somalia (Embtel 2877)3 and agriculture, described in Embtel 2908.

We thus cannot for present realistically expect GOI to make “courageous” decisions which their friends and indeed they themselves, would like to see made. We should by all means keep up pressure on liberalization but in our judgment, agricultural situation is sufficiently delicate that, under present circumstances, it might be used to precipitate a political crisis. Apart from political results if this happened, there is no assurance that GOI would not adopt new protectionist policies in agricultural area harmful to our broader interests in Europe.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 765.00/2–161. Confidential.
  2. Both dated January 30. (Ibid., 465.006/1–3061)
  3. Telegram 2868, January 26, reported on the formation of a center-left city government in Milan and its impact on relationships among Italian parties on a national level. (Ibid., 765.00/1–2661)
  4. Dated January 26. (Ibid., 700.5–MSP/1–2661)