Tractors roll into Riga-Minister resigns

  • 2009-02-04
  • TBT Staff

Farmers braved the cold to protest around the clock. Photo: Kate McIntosh

RIGA- Amidstheavy protest and criticism, Latvian Agriculture Minister Martins Roze has resigned.

Though Roze resigned on public television, Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis iswithholding his decision on Roze's resignation until he has received anofficial letter of resignation, telling press "not to hurry the events."

"The minister has made a brave decision. The main thing is that such adecision has been made -- it is his work and an attempt to improve thesituation, extinguishing the fire. There is also pressure and demands, possibleunrests... the minister informed me about that," said Godmanis.

Roze's reason for his resignation, he said, was that he has met the promisesand the Agriculture Ministry's program has been adopted by the government onTuesday and dairy farmers and other farmers will have additional resources. Healso said that demands that were of economic nature at the beginning, turnedinto political demands later, adding that peaceful protests can grow intoserious problems.

"We should also take into account that the Agriculture Ministry cannotfunction in such a situation as the decision has to be implemented... but ifthe ministry's work is paralyzed, no farmer would be able to receive thissupport," said Roze.

He also said that he has received threats and his decision to resign hasbeen made to protect his family.

Farmers staging massive protests in the countryside as well as Riga had demanded Roze'sresignation.  

The Latvian government decided at a meeting on Feb. 3 to allocate additional27 million lats (EUR 38.4 mln) for loan guarantees to the dairy industry, allowingfarmers struggling to repay their loans and postpone payments of the loanprincipal for one year.

Farmers said that the government's decision partly meets their four economicrequirements and they have to be implemented in a month. Nevertheless, farmersstill demanded resignation of the minister, resolving to wait by the ministry'sbuilding until it happens.

Farmers sbegan to leave after Maira Dzelzkaleja, the deputy chairwoman ofthe organization Farmers' Parliament, informed them that Roze plans to announcehis resignation.

According to the Farmers' Parliament, several thousands of farmers withseveral hundreds of tractors and other agriculture machinery have taken part inthe Feb. 3 protest campaign, lighting bonfires to keep warm. Events werepeaceful, as farmers travelled in the night to avoid tying up traffic in theearly morning.