Italy in shock as two men torch themselves over hardship


A bank with a damaged door and ATM is seen during a demonstration in downtown Rome on October 15, 2011.



LONDON, UK – Italians have been left reeling by two cases of men setting themselves on fire in the past two days in protest at their bleak financial situation.

A 58-year-old builder accused of tax evasion wrote suicide notes to his wife, friends and Italy’s tax agency before setting himself alight in his car in Bologna on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

His appeal against a demand for $134,000 in allegedly unpaid taxes had been thrown out, Italian media reports said. The man was rescued by a traffic warden and is in a critical condition in a severe burns unit.

Meanwhile, a 27-year-old Moroccan construction worker is recovering in hospital after pouring petrol over himself and setting it alight outside Verona city hall in northern Italy.

Police said the man told them he had not been paid for four months and was desperately in need of money.

More from GlobalPost: Can Mario Monti stave off disaster in Italy?

Prime Minister Mario Monti’s government is rigorously clamping down on tax dodging, which authorities claim deprives Italy of about $160 billion a year, Reuters reports.

Unions say austerity measures introduced to try and dig Italy out of its current economic woes – including spending cuts, tax hikes and pension reforms – have a particularly negative impact on ordinary workers.

According to the BBC, there has been much sympathy in the Italian media for the men, with one newspaper describing the Moroccan worker as a man who had been crushed by the economic crisis. 

More from GlobalPost: Chinese cars, made in Bulgaria