ROME - Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti faced protests and catcalls on Saturday as he defended tax authorities against attacks fuelled by his government's unpopular austerity measures.
Monti's speech to a passing-out parade of new officers of the Guardia di Finanza tax police in the northern city of Bergamo was met by a small plane trailing a banner reading "Enough with Monti, enough with taxes".
"You are preparing to begin this profession, this service, at a moment of particular difficulty for Italy and Europe," Monti told the parade in a speech which was interrupted several times by shouts from protestors.
Monti's technocrat government has imposed some 24 billion euros ($30 billion) worth of tax hikes to shore up Italy's strained public finances and control a public debt burden equivalent to about 120 percent of gross domestic product.
Italy's tax officials have been under growing pressure over recent months and Equitalia, the agency which collects taxes and fines, has been targeted by a string of attacks and threats by desperate small businessmen as well as anarchist groups.