Latvija in brief - 2010-02-10

  • 2010-02-10

Political party Civic Union’s 303 delegates on Feb. 6 voted unanimously to join the soon-to-be triumvirate of parties, the Unity party, reports LETA. Unity, which includes with New Era and Society for Different Politics, plans to run in the 10th Saeima elections. Unity’s founding congress is scheduled for March 6. Civic Union leader Girts Valdis Kristovskis, in his speech, gave his assessment of the political situation in Latvia: “Twenty years since renewal of independence, we are faced with bitterness and despair, the ideals of the reawakening have been annihilated by the cynicism of political parties, the selfish interests of certain groups, egoism and alienation. A handful of the wealthy grab even more capital, while indigence among the populace grows, and the gap between rich man and poor man grows.” This new political force is being established to win the next parliament elections and to thwart the coming to power of the ‘pro-Russian forces’ and the ‘oligarch parties,’ say analysts.

Riga will have a Jewish Ghetto Museum in the future, and Deputy Mayor Ainars Slesers (Latvia’s First Party/Latvia’s Way) said to the press on Feb. 2 that it will be an “integral part of the city,” reported LETA. He added that “If we don’t know history, we can’t shape the future. We must honor those who suffered and died. We can’t forget the burden that the Jewish people had to bear during WWII,” stated Slesers. Slesers, filling in for vacationing Mayor Usakovs, and Menahems Barkahans, leader of the Shamir congregation, signed a protocol of intent on establishing the museum. “This museum will show how beautiful Riga is,” commented Barkahans. “This museum will show that Latvia is a multi-ethnic country, where anyone can feel at home,” Slesers added. The Ghetto Museum, a lasting memorial to Holocaust victims, is to be located in the historic Spikeri warehouses on the corner of Turgeneva and Krasta streets.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has requested that the Latvian government close 11 cells in two state prisons by Feb. 15, reports LETA. Latvian authorities have one month, from Jan. 22, to close five cells at Jekabpils prison and six cells at Jelgava prison. According to the observations given in the report, based on the CPT delegation’s visit in December 2009, five small cells in Jekabpils prison’s disciplinary zone are “dark, damp, dirty, foul-smelling and in a state of disrepair.” Six disciplinary cells in Jelgava prison were also characterized as “narrow, dirty, foul-smelling and possessing insufficient lighting and in poor technical condition,” says the CPT. All 11 cells were said to be of insufficient size for holding people, therefore the delegation requested that the relevant Latvian authorities ensure their closure. Latvian Prison Administration authorities have been instructed to resolve the matters contained in the report.