A 34-year-old Danish man who had been detained for selling drugs killed himself in prison on Jan. 5. The man hung himself using a bed sheet at approximately 7 a.m. He was arrested on Jan. 2 along with a 31-year-old Latvian woman while allegedly selling hashish in a parking lot in the central Latvian town of Jelgava. When police raided the couple's residence they found 4.5 kilograms of marijuana and 125 grams of hashish. Police have launched a probe into the incident, but maintain that the death was a suicide. Neither detainee had a criminal record, but they faced eight to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
In a bid to regain people's trust in the government, newly appointed Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis announced on Jan. 3 that the government would renew the tradition of ordering routine public polls to gauge society's opinions on socially important issues. In an interview with Latvian Public Television, Godmanis said the first issues covered by the polls include energy, inflation, education, the regional reform and the labor market. The government also plans to have each minister present a 2008 "action plan" to Parliament before Easter.
TV3 commercial television reported on Dec. 30 that the first secretary of the Russian embassy in Riga, Anatoly Kogalov, had been asked to leave the country due to his having been blacklisted by the Schengen Zone. Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins immediately denied the report, however, saying that since the diplomat has a visa he will be allowed to stay in Latvia until it expires in the middle of the year. The diplomat is, however, barred from travelling to other EU countries. Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis also denied the report, telling journalists that it was a "media rumor."
President Valdis Zatlers handed out credentials to two new ambassadors on Jan. 8. During his meeting with newly-appointed ambassador to Hungary Veronika Erte, the first resident ambassador to the country that Latvia has had, Zatlers underscored the need to step up economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries. The two also discussed issues surrounding Schengen zone membership. On the same day, Zatlers also handed credentials to the new ambassador to the OSCE Nils Jansons, who will represent Latvia at the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN in Vienna. Zatlers urged the ambassador to lobby Latvia's interests more actively in the organizations.
KNAB, Latvia's anti-corruption bureau, announced on Jan. 4 that it had resolved the bookkeeping irregularities which led former Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis to attempt to sack the organization's head 's a move which ultimately resulted in the collapse of the government. The bureau sent proposals for the new amendments to the parliamentary defense, interior and anti-corruption committees for review. KNAB said that it had formulated a system whereby all finances would be earmarked for specific operative activities. The new provisions are in line with the recommendations made by the State Auditor's Office and the Prosecutor General's Office.