Latvija in brief - 2005-04-20

  • 2005-04-20
The nationalist For Fatherland and Freedom party said that a parliamentary resolution condemning communism should be pushed through the government as soon as possible. The resolution has found support from New Era and is waiting for the People's Party before it will have enough votes to pass. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis cautioned that perhaps the resolution should wait, since it could affect the state's negotiations with Russia over a border agreement. "The keys are in the hands of the People's Party," said Maris Grinblats, head of For Fatherland and Freedom. "If they agree, then the Farmers [the Greens and Farmers Union] will agree too."

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission asked a judge to freeze assets belonging to the founder of AmeriDebt to stop him from transferring millions of dollars to offshore accounts. Andris Pukke, head of the company under investigation, is accused of defrauding customers of millions of dollars and has allegedly moved money to offshore accounts in the Caribbean and to an account belonging to his father in Latvia. Pukke founded the non-profit AmeriDebt in 1996. It grew into one of the largest debt counselors in the country. Pukke is said to have personally profited by $70 million. Investigators are seeking the return of some $170 million from AmeriDebt.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said that a border agreement would be signed without a referendum over the disputed territory of Abrene, since the state has long maintained that it does not have a territorial claim against any country. For Fatherland and Freedom, however, released a statement shortly afterward calling for the inclusion of Abrene, which was originally a part of the Latvian state but was given to Russia during the Soviet occupation. Protests were also held by the radical organization Klubs 415 and the Latvian National Front in opposition to an agreement that does not include Abrene.

Two employees were killed in Rietumu Banka's Old Town branch midday April 19, although police were quick to say that robbery was not considered a motive. Unofficial sources said that a bank security guard killed a female secretary and then shot himself, according to the LETA news agency. Rietumu Bank declined to comment.

A recent survey released by the Baltic Institute for Social Sciences blamed ethnic tensions on the political elite, whose desire to gain power foster the problems. The survey, titled "Ethnopolitical Tension in Latvia: Looking for Solution to Conflict," cited the use of the phrase "The Russians are coming" by For Human Rights in a United Latvia to energize its electorate and the disparity of ethnic media in reports on the education reform, among other things.