RIGA - As Latvia celebrated its 89th independence day on Nov. 18 the nation's leaders marked the occasion with a number of high-profile speeches which both held praise for the country and warned of deep-seated problems in society and politics.
President Valdis Zatlers called on Latvians to look to themselves to find an answer to the country's increasingly visible problems with corruption.
"The moral environment we live in is sick. We often ignore each other and care only about ourselves. We have lost our ethical criteria. Co-citizens stop believing in each other and, what is even worse, in their state," Zatlers said in a public address at Riga's Freedom Monument.
"God help the people of our nation to understand these times, so we don't wander lost between illusions and true values," he said in another address earlier that day.
The president highlighted political arrogance as one of the worst problems facing the country today. "Arrogance and snobbery deteriorate society like moths eat up woolen fabric. Most dangerous is political arrogance. Permissiveness has to be stopped and replaced by mutual respect and responsibility," he said.
Parliamentary Speaker Gundars Daudze also pointed to political problems in the country, calling on the Saeima (Latvia's parliament) to be more independent. During a speech to Parliament, Daudze said that he is "forced to talk about things that one usually does not mention on a holiday."
"That which has happened in the past month in Latvia has made politicians ponder our political climate, our political civility, our joint democratic values," the speaker said.
He said it is Parliament's duty to remain objective, and that it should make "independent, carefully-weighed, nationally important decisionsâ€¦ [and not be] an appendage of the government, media or any NGO."
Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis 's who has announced he will step down on Dec. 5 amid the government's loss of public trust 's was understandably less quick to highlight political corruption. The prime minister instead called for solidarity among the people to address the problems that the country faces.
"Today we live in an independent Latvia that is developing rapidly. The road has not always been easy, and serious new challenges are still to come," the prime minister said.
"We must be unified to reach our goal 's a truly democratic and prosperous country. Step by step we must move ahead, and we must work to create the nation that we all want. We must work together," he said.