Vike-Freiberga: capitalism is failing

  • 2009-02-11
  • By Monika Hanley

The popular ex-president said the country was in dire need of reform.

RIGA - Former President Vaira Vike-Freiberga has called for political and economic change, saying that the capitalist system is collapsing and something must be done.
"When greedy businesses look to their own profits and countries start falling like bowling pins, capitalism has shown serious weaknesses. Something needs to be fixed in the financial machine," she said. 
In a recent speech at the American Chamber of Commerce luncheon, the former president spoke on a variety of issues, but gave specific attention to the world and Latvian financial crisis.

"Capitalism is not the magic wand to fix everything, but a process developed by humans over time and changing it. It's all in human hands," said Vike-Freiberga, who remains one of the most popular figures in the country.
Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis has been criticized for his response to the crisis, with some saying he is not doing enough to help turn the economy around. Vike-Freiberga said the talks about calling early elections are premature and will not help solve the major problems currently plaguing the country.

"Lithuania had general elections and now has a new government. They still have the same crisis," she said.
Latvia's ex-president, often referred to as the "Iron Lady," has always been a staunch supporter of new parties and getting new faces into politics. Now she urges those who disagree with the current situation to make it better by running for office as opposed to merely sitting on the sidelines.
 "If you're unhappy, go into politics yourself. I have not seen people lining up. Where are you people?" the former president said.

In response to the public's cry for change, Vike-Freiberga said there hasn't been change in a long time 's she said the same faces are there, they are just being rotated in position and put under different party names.
"My feeling is that people should stop agitating and running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Sit down and analyze the role of government," she said.
Despite expressing a general optimism for the future, the former president said she does not know what will happen after March 31 's the deadline the president has given the government to meet his list of demands and to make a decision regarding the amendments to the Latvian constitution.

"I have no idea. I will be at home watching the television along with everyone else," she said.
When asked about earning the trust of other EU member states, Vike-Freiberga spoke about her experience as president.
"We are only learning from our elders and betters, and they seem to have managed just fine," she said, citing formerly fascist Italy as an example. 

In recent months, and especially after the Jan. 13 riots, many have speculated that Vike-Freiberga will return to politics.
"Some see me as this teddy bear of happiness to fix all. It takes a large machine to do that which I do not have," she said.

The former president also said that Latvia will overcome the current financial strife.
"We need to breathe life into what some call a corpse. This negative thinking doesn't help at all. Latvia can get out and will, but the costs will be considerable."