U.S. warns travelers to Latvia about racist attacks

  • 2005-07-13
  • By The Baltic Times
RIGA 's The United States State Department has issued a warning to U.S. travelers that race-based attacks are occurring in Latvia and that visitors to the country should beware.

The warning was issued on July 11, 10 days after an American citizen was assaulted in Riga Old Town.

"The attack was clearly racially motivated," the U.S. warning read.

The attack is the latest in a string of such incidents directed against dark-skinned foreigners and Jews. It one recent incident the leader of Afro-Lat, an organization uniting Africans who live in Latvia, was chased through Old Town until he managed to duck into a bar and find help.

"This is an unpleasant issue 's a negative fact about Latvia," Ojars Kalnins, director of Latvian Institute and former ambassador to the United States, told the Diena daily.

The Foreign Ministry stated that racism has broken out from domestic policy into foreign policy, and the ministry would draw the government's attention to the question whether law enforcement agencies are capable of eliminating the problem.

Verbal and physical attacks have occurred against an Indian, an Afro-American, a Jewish rabbi in recent weeks. Although all the attacks have been reported to the police, criminal cases were opened on charges of hooliganism and racism due to insufficient legislation.

Kalnins said that generally the situation in Latvia is not that dangerous and wondered if the U.S.A. would watch other states just as carefully 's for example, England, where attacks on people of Arab descent are likely after the terrorist attacks in London.

A series of controversially comments by Alexandrs Kirsteins, an MP and former head of Parliament's foreign affairs committee, have also harmed Latvia's reputation recently. Kirsteins was kicked out of the People's Party, a right wing organization, after comments that many felt were anti-Semitic.