Latvia minister quits in crisis


LATVIA’S GOVERNMENT faced a no-confidence vote in parliament last night after the agriculture minister resigned amid public anger over the country’s deepening economic difficulties.

The Baltic state has plunged into recession following years of rapid growth. Moreover, the government’s popularity has evaporated since it reduced public expenditure and increased taxes to try and balance its budget and meet conditions attached to a €7.5 billion rescue package received from the International Monetary Fund.

Anti-government protests last month in the capital, Riga, sparked the worst riots to hit Latvia since it broke from the Soviet Union in 1991, and scores of farmers camped out in the city centre this week to demand aid.

“I will submit my resignation to the prime minister,” said agriculture minister Martins Roze.

“It was my own decision,” he added, insisting that he was not taking responsibility for the problems in Latvian farming or simply giving in to the protesting farmers’ demands, which he said were politically motivated rather than economic in nature.

Neighbouring Lithuania has also been hit by violent anti-government rallies, and farmers in Bulgaria blocked crossing points on its border with Romania yesterday to demand subsidies and protest against cheap food imports.