Extremism in Latvian government

  • 2004-09-22
  • By Karlis Streips
The foreign relations commission of the Saeima (Latvia's parliament) recently hired a new secretary with the blessing of commission chairman, Aleksandrs Kirsteins, a member of the People's Party. This would be nothing extraordinary were it not for the fact of the young lady's political affiliations.

The new secretary is an activist in what is known as the Latvian National Front. The words "national front," as a friend from London once wrote me, strikes the fear of God into civilized people's hearts, but that is what the organisation is called. The LPF is a virulently anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic organization, one that insists Latvia is an illegitimate state because it has not gotten rid of what the organisation calls "occupants."

The LPF has its own newsletter called DDD, and the new foreign relations commission secretary is its deputy editor. In the latest issue, the movement's leader, book publisher Aivars Garda, explained what needs to happen in Latvia: "Ethnic Latvians need at least 700,000 occupants to leave Latvia. This will require 20,000 railroad cars. If we look at the issue, we see that that is not a very large number of cars. As far as I know, there are four trains that depart to Russia every day. One train has at least 20 cars, and 700 occupants can leave in each of those trains. That means that in order to deport 700,000 occupants, we need 1,000 trains, and these can be sent to Russia over the course of 250 days."

I would like The Baltic Times' readers to reflect on whether that statement does or does not correspond to the tragic concept of the 1990s that is called "ethnic cleansing." There are, of course, people in Latvia who are no friends of this country or its political system. However, there are also many, many non-Latvians (or whoever it is to whom the term "occupants" is applied by this extremist organization) who are at home here, who were born here, who are this country's residents in every sense of the word.

Then there is anti-Semitism. The newsletter DDD in 2003 blithely published, in serial form, the Bible of the world's anti-Semites, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," presenting it as God's truth. The new foreign relations commission secretary herself co-authored these words to the Israeli ambassador to Latvia: "It would be great if you explained to your nationals that they owe a debt to the Latvian people for the hospitality that we have demonstrated to them for centuries, when they were chased out of their fatherland. Your richest nationals must remember that they are aliens here, that they must say 'thank you' to the Latvians for having allowed them to purchase major properties in Latvia, turning the Latvians into farm animals. The time will come when the Latvian nation will nationalize all of the properties which aliens have grabbed."

This is a newspaper that has described Latvia's government as a "pederast-traitor regime" and a "Zionist-masonic" regime. It has published a reader's letter in which President Vaira Vike-Freiberga is described as "an active supporter and participant in the Euro-Mafia and the criminal regime; she is a criminal." Again, the deputy editor of this publication is now a secretary of the foreign relations commission of Latvia's Parliament.

What is particularly shocking about this thing is that other politicians have reacted to the appointment in a completely blase manner. Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks (also of the People's Party) told a newspaper that the woman had to be hired, because otherwise she might have sued the Saeima for discrimination. The chairman of the New Era faction in the Saeima said that "technical people don't determine policy." As Augusts Brigmanis of the Farmers' Union claimed, "We cannot limit her right to do this job if her qualifications are in order."

What are the qualifications? Aleksandrs Kirsteins has said that the woman was hired because she speaks French. Well, whoop-de-do! Never mind that she is part of an organization that the commander of the Latvian Security police has described as "radical, with elements of extremism." But she speaks French! The equivalent here would be a member of America's Congress hiring an activist from the Ku Klux Klan because the person knows how to type.

Foreign diplomats who work in Latvia 's please take a look at this organization's Web site if you speak Latvian, or ask someone on your staff to do it for you if you don't. The Internet address (though I am loath to publicise it) is www.latvians.lv/nmln/ddd. Please take a look at the content and decide whether you can accept the presence of such an extremist in the halls of Parliament. It makes no difference whether she is a secretary or a senior advisor; the fact is that there are philosophies in this world that are eliminated from the political mainstream irrespective of the acceptance of democratic principles. Please make your views clear to Mr. Kirsteins and Mr. Pabriks when you next see them. I would scream if the German Bundestag hired a Nazi, I would scream if France's Parliament hired Jean-Marie LePen, I would holler if America's Senate hired David Duke. I am screaming because the Latvian parliament has hired an ultra-nationalist extremist. Please scream with me.

Karlis Streips is a leading journalist and commentator in Riga