Latvia: "Giving Democracy a Bad Name"

Brian Worley  (written when he resided in Ogre, Latvia)

 

People are talking about the depths of Latvia's problems, but few outsiders can fully grasp why this European Union member is teetering upon financial doomsday! Even if the IMF releases funds here, we question the wisdom behind such a move because the root causes behind the debacle haven't been addressed. Tossing money helps little while Latvia has holes in it's pockets! As I tell our story,  I will share from first hand experience what it is like to live in this small "breakaway republic" and help those abroad understand how corruption, ineptitude, and an utter disregard for civil/human rights has landed Latvia in their dire position!

Our Story

Sensing that real estate in California had gone crazy and history telling us that the acceleration just couldn't continue; Everita and I decided that we would invest in her native Latvia when we married in 2003. We left California with goals of getting our business established and heartily giving back to the community.

Our plan assumed the application of the rule of law; after all this wasn't the USSR anymore! I'm an American citizen that has had a taste of what it is like to live in a society where human and civil rights are cherished, and fought for when they are infringed upon.  Turns out that we were naïve in our assumptions because corruption rules here rather than law. We have lost all hope of attaining justice domestically. Until this point, I have tried to keep a relatively low profile as a Latvian guest; but enough is enough! 

My wife, Everita is an sharp, educated lady with a Masters degree in economics and has served upon the Latvian National Broadcasting Council as an elected official. She is also a founding member of the Latvian People's Party (TP).

A leading Latvian woman's magazine Ieva, has just published her hard-hitting article that outlines how corruption leads to massive emigration of the Latvian people. She also touched upon regional governmental protectionism, which curtails competition while crippling growth that cheats municipalities of much needed additional tax base revenue. These factors are all in the mix as Latvia suffers the greatest pain within EU's membership during the economic crisis!

 Everita's article generated quite a stir because the message resonated with so many that suffer here! Beyond complaining, there isn't much a non-wealthy citizen can do because Latvia's democracy is impotent! Yea, the sign hangs on the door outside, but go inside and you would find that democracy is just like piped in elevator music (a nice sound to help pass the time.) Latvia is giving democracy a bad name!

We bought a 3-story house in the center of the town of Ogre. No, the town name of Ogre isn't a typo and yes, the Ogre city council does their best to live up to the English definition of the name! Our 3-story home's first floor is commercial property in arguably the best location in town. We have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into fixing up the place and have tried to the best of our abilities to be good citizens.        

Upon my arrival in November 2006, my first day in the yard was quite eye-opening. First thing I noticed was that the city ran large thermal underground pipes through our yard rendering a large portion of our land unusable. The city uses our land and derives benefits at our expense without compensation for our loss. All the while requiring us to pay tax upon a representative portion of land that has little to no redemptive value. This and other matters show a disdain for private property rights. Even if we had the lawyer money, we have no confidence in getting justice in a land renown for corrupted officials! 

Newspaper slander, Xenophobia in print!  

We discovered quite early that the regional government, judicial system, police, business leaders and political leaders "work together". For example, the now defunct Ogre Zinas newspaper with a clear xenophobic message that is ugly towards foreigners unjustly slandered me; the intention it seems was to inflict damage upon our business enterprises. They succeeded! When this case was taken to the Latvian National Human Rights Office, they were unprofessional throughout the process with the ombudsman stalling until we forced him to address the issue. Everything is in writing, he rubber stamped the gesture and protected the Diena owned newspaper abdicating his responsibility of protecting human rights. Upon his decision, I asked for a face to face meeting with the man and was told that he would be on medical leave and wasn't allow to speak with him!  Diena should have been held accountable and been penalized for the damages they caused us! A high-powered law firm should be able to come in and easily win the case! I would like to own Diena! 

The Ogre Zinas hatchet job stirred xenophobic hostilities against us. Besides awaking to crosses and other projectiles in our yard, we have had people piss on our home amongst other things. The most heart wrenching was the conjured up grave medical diagnosis that an Ogre pediatrician pronounced about our infant daughter. We were told that her medical condition was the worst case that she had witnessed in her 30 plus years of "service." Those were very dark days for us, not knowing how much time we might have left with our newborn daughter. It drove me to study the diagnosed condition. My daughter showed none of the symptoms, so we went for second and third opinions. In a side note, while getting the second opinion my wife alerted me to a doctor (Valdis Zatlers) mentioning that he was to be the new president of the country (the country is that small.) Two specialists in amazement pondered how anyone could render such a grave medical diagnosis when my daughter had absolutely no symptoms whatsoever! I believe that pediatrician is still allowed to practice medicine. Xenophobia brings out cruelty in people, and being the receptor of their poison isn't pleasant. 

Rampant police corruption

 I could write a book about police corruption. Things like the city center's security camera being ran over by a tractor-trailer truck when trucks aren't allowed in that area. Then calling the police immediately thereafter and being told "vis kartiba" (everything is working normally) while my eyes glazed upon all the broken glass scattered and the bent pole.  They destroyed the evidence of the tape and covered it up. After this, the drug trade escalated because the truck took the security camera out of commission! How do I know it escalated? I watched the daily drug "drop offs" and monetary "pick-ups" occurring from my window! Left with no other options and fearing that the escalation placed us in danger, I contacted the KNAB (anti-corruption bureau). 

In a reasonable time period new security cameras were installed in a place where trucks couldn't destroy them. KNAB delivered and I was feeling so good about this. Strange, but soon thereafter the KNAB chief was dumped causing a national uproar! While in Ogre, the installation of those new cameras obviously upset the local police that quite boldly told us that if people wanted to sit in the park and openly shoot up or smoke their dope that it was within their rights to do so (with the implication being that they could care less about it!) 

Talk about being openly brazen! I have pictorial evidence of a culprit committing over $200 worth of property damage that the municipal police chief laughed at. He put it in writing that he lacked "jurisdiction" in the matter! We took this to the "top cop" in the land (by the way he is the spitting image of Bennie Hill) and he basically told us to get lost! A month or so later he had the nerve to publicly state that "petty crimes" of lesser amounts should not be prosecuted. Imagine you as a business owner, when the top cop says publicly that stolen items (say a pair of pliers) wasn't important to the police and you should just take the hit! Talk about giving the "green light" to criminals... what incompetent fools! 

 Sleeping watchdogs, improbable "suicide attempts", & caller ID at the police station  

A few days after this, I called Delna (Transparency International's affiliate) and was told that they hadn't even heard of the police chief's ridiculous statement. I could tell you of a case where a handcuffed prisoner was being transported in the back seat with armed officers on each side. This prisoner was "skillful" enough to stop a moving squad car upon a bridge over the Daugava River, managing to escape and to jump over the side rail because he wanted to commit suicide. I'm not making this stuff up, this was the story that they tried to sell to the public! The prisoner being the suspect of planting a bomb in an KNAB's officials car. 

Two policemen disturbed us and my sister-in-law's business on May 31st. Why? Although they have all the required permits, seems that an Ogre's Doma member with purported links to the amphitheatre and Ogrenet website directed the police to harass us because we allow them to park their mobile catering business on our city center property to sell kabobs. We asked for their ID's and they refused! We asked what law have they broken, they didn't answer!  Next thing we know that someone placed a slanderous article on the popular community website Ogrenet. This deviant pattern of crude Latvian "business as usual" needs to get slammed by the force of an overlooking international agency that would monitor the application of the rule of law and justice. Latvian's would like to see that democracy isn't a two-cent word or elevator music! We need intervention!  

In May 2008, I called the Ogre police department due to drunks disturbing the peace at 2:30 am. Nobody even picked up the phone! I had given up after 10 minutes, and in desperation decide to step outside and asked them nicely to please go home. That wasn't too wise of me because I was jumped by three men and took some blows. I recovered and beat the hell out of these guys, but had broken my foot in two places in the process and was on crutches for sometime afterwards. This would have been a moot point if one could rely upon the police department to answer their calls regardless of the number on their caller's ID screen! When they cannot produce the tapes upon request, heads should roll! Did I mention that the municipal police chief is accountable to city council (Doma)? 

 Which is worse?  Latvia's Regional or National Corruption?

Our prime downtown location is a great place for a café! It is hard for a man to see his wife cry, but we realized the "death blow" had been struck by Ogre's Doma when they denied us an opportunity to open our café. We met the standards and then they "changed/re-interpreted" them. They continually "bled us" to spend money in varied ways until we simply ran out of money. All the while, they were just "toying" with us. I could take any news agency to at least 3 new sit down eating establishments that have been permitted to open in town that do not have a public toilet which was required in our café application! There is something rotten on top of the hill in Ogre! 

Corrupt officials like these who don't abide by the law should be held accountable and made to pay from their own pockets when they act from personal prejudices! Our case is not an isolated incident either! These types of incidents all factor into the demise of Latvia, because the alternative brings the fight or flight mechanism into the picture. Riots occur when citizens cannot get the application/protection of the rule of law. Some just suffer and accept a diminished lifestyle while vast numbers of families are split up when a member has to leave the country for "greener pastures." Many Latvian children grow up without the benefit of their fathers due to unacceptable living conditions here (father sends money home from abroad.) Sometimes both parents go leaving the kids to be raised by a sibling or grandparent. The residual effect in your country is that when Latvian workers come to your country due to our problems, you pay the price because the wages of workers in your country are kept down by the influx. See, corruption's price is spread out and paid for by others around the world! 

Earlier this spring upon hearing that a desperately poor country decided to fork over money from the public treasury to save a risk-taking bank, my wife had heard enough! She contacted the People's Party (TP) asking for a reasonable explanation. A few days later she gets a personal call from then (TP) Minister of Finance, Atis Slakteris with a patronizing immature explanation... she proceeds to tell him that she has heard it all before and that she wasn't buying the bull! Sad, sad, sad! 

Who will protect the citizenry from the bankers?  

I've never heard of such unethical banking institutions and the compliant politicians that will not work to protect the interests of its citizens! Banks seem to be isolated from any risks here. If our understanding of the law is correct, you can't just "return the keys" to a financial institution in Latvia should one find themselves in tough times. What they do here is sell your foreclosed property to "favored ones" at bargain prices and in turn require the one whom just lost the property to make up or pay the differences between the selling price and the original amount of the loan. The result is financial death for the citizen that can last for their lifetime! Seems like the Latvian government bails out select risk taking banks and then has the nerve to sacrifice it's own citizens upon the bank's altar when they cannot repay! 

Being denied the fair opportunity by local organized criminals to compete in the marketplace has brought us to the brink of bankruptcy. We invested; they discriminated! Our being denied basic human/civil rights has separated us from our opportunity to generate the revenue to pay our mortgage. Danske Bank has just told us that they will start legal action against us. The sharks are circling! 

With the rule of law, we could make it on our own!

We are good businessmen that have built our real estate holdings to a pre-crisis appraisal value of over a million dollars. We feel that we would do quite well in this market if we were only allowed into it!!!  This is not a free marketplace! Without the discrimination/xenophobia both locally and at the national level, we wouldn't need anyone's help because we could make it on our own!  We are a proud, hard working, industrial couple that has spent considerable time outside of this "white-collar criminal controlled" town's limited perspective.  We believe in the common good and do not want to surrender to those that want to plunder! Unless we get swift international intervention and the protection of the rule of law we will be soon foreclosed upon and living in the house pictured below before long! 

There is so much more that I could say, this is just the tip of an iceberg! I don't like to "show people up" but someone that wanted to make a human/civil rights documentary would have ample material to draw from and I haven't even ventured into Jewish related matters, homophobia, integration, exploitation of foreigners/tourists, or everyday what should be mundane business world matters! Corruption rules; justice is scarce, and there is little reason for hope with the common man if they choose to stay in Latvia. It always seems that the government is in turmoil here and rioting isn't uncommon with the high levels of frustration of the populous. What should the IMF release funds to Latvia only to see it eventually settle into the pockets of those that share responsibility for causing the problems in the first place?

Latvia needs some heroes and an influx of courageous statesmen that won't betray their fellow citizens! We need your help! 

What we are looking for is:  1) how and where to go (outside of Latvia) in order to get swift justice without cost to us.  2) Gross violations of human/civil rights has bled us to the point of bankruptcy, certain parties should be held accountable, we should be awarded financial compensation for the damages      3) Some international human rights organizations with "passion and teeth" should park themselves in Latvia!!! 

This line expresses that this article was an opinion of the writer, Brian Worley.

(this ends the article)

 Please help our cause by circulating this page!

 Hereby I give you permission with these two exceptions.

1)    If anyone wants to edit anything OUT of this article, you can but must provide a link back to this page! Where readers can read it in its entirety. (Note the above opinion line concludes the article) For questions, my email is webmaster@exminister.org

2)    If you DO NOT edit anything on this page, then you can omit the link to the Ex-minister.org website should you so desire. 

We heartily welcome all media, international human rights organizations and those friendly to our cause to spread this message because in so doing you can play a major role towards assisting Latvia and helping us to get justice! We don't want sympathy because nobody here wants any part of playing the role of a victim. We kept this "under wraps" until this time for several reasons including: 1) not knowing what to do about it  2) we always thought we could handle this on our own and thus maintain our much desired anonymity.  We are positioned to do something good here, no matter how difficult it might be! Latvia is a great place that needs rescuing from the thugs! 

The Ex-minister website will list those whom we have sent this to, and keep a "scorecard." We will monitor the reactions of where we sent the article and show how and to what extent that they have sought resolutions! We do not intend to let this slide down "the memory hole!"

Brian Worley     Ex-Minister.org      June 5, 2009    Some rights reserved

 


 

 

Since I cannot speak the Latvian language that well, here is a link to a Latvian-American journalist Juris Kaza and his excellent blog Failed State Latvia

 

 

 

 

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