Latvija in brief - 2008-02-20

  • 2008-02-20
In one of its first acts as a political organization, "The Society for Other Politics" on Feb. 16 gathered the necessary amount of signatures to initiate the process of amending the pension law. The organization managed to gather more than 3,000 signatures over the course of three days. The large turnout is seen as a huge success for the organization, which claims it could have gotten far more if the campaign had lasted just a few more days. "The Society for Other Politics" is a political organization founded by former Regional Affairs Minister Aigars Stokenbergs and slated to one day become a full blown left-wing political party.

 Former detainees of the KGB headquarters in Riga have thrown their support behind a Riga City Council proposal to turn the site into a museum. The building, located on Brivibas Street in the center of the city, is currently being used as a police station. During Soviet times, the building became famous as a site for the torture and execution of dissidents. A number of Russian businessmen have reportedly been considering the idea of buying the premises, a move that nationalist politicians and members of the Latvian Officers Association hope to block by installing an exhibition from the Occupation Museum on the site.

The Zemgale regional court sentenced Vladimirs Rubanuks, former deputy warden of the Jekabpils jail, to seven years in prison for extorting a bribe. Rubanuks pled guilty to the charges, throwing himself on the mercy of the court. The defendant was arrested on May 8, 2007, after being caught demanding a 10,000 lat bribe from an inmate in return for his help in securing a favorable ruling in an early release hearing. Rubanuks was also convicted of threatening to take action to ensure that the inmate would not be released if he did not pay the deputy warden.

As was widely expected, the government approved the draft law endorsing the Treaty of Lisbon. The bill will now be sent to Parliament to be ratified, which would make Latvia the sixth EU member state 's after Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, Romania and France 's to approve the document. The treaty of Lisbon was meant to replace the failed EU Constitutional Treaty, which was shot down by referendum in France and the Netherlands. The new treaty has been accused by some European politicians of being too similar to the constitution, changing only the names but keeping all of the same basic principles intact. It is expected to take effect in 2009.

A Lithuanian man was arrested in Ventspils on Feb. 18 when State Revenue Service officers found a kilogram of cocaine hidden in his truck. Amounting to the biggest drug bust so far this year, the street value of the drugs is estimated to be 45 to 55 thousand lats (64,000 's 71,000 euros). The cocaine was reportedly hidden in a secret compartment in the man's truck, hidden inside a box bearing a "Toyota" label. Officials believe that the man was planning to smuggle the drugs into Norway.