Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Prostituting Democracy

by CHRISTOPHER FONS

AOn November 28, 2006 George Bush used the NATO meeting in “new Europe ” in Riga , Latvia as the stage for the last act of his tragedy being played out in Iraq. The venue was the University of Latvia where Bush invoked the history of occupation and the struggle for freedom in the 20th century.

The choice of Latvia is instructive and ironic. On the surface the country appears to be prosperous and free. Fueled by offshore oil money at $60 plus a barrel and ill-gotten gains seeking safe tax-free offshore outlets from Russia , Latvia ‘s economy since 2003 has surged forward. Moreover, recent EU membership in 2004 brought capital flooding in from the West, where the Maastricht criteria creating an overvalued Euro have sent Western capital racing East to speculative markets over investment in the real economy, thus depressing West European growth. Further, as anyone who has visited Riga can attest, the city boasts one of the largest concentrations of beautiful art nouveau buildings in Europe , thus helping to create a vibrant tourist industry. Yet, for all these advantages, not all glitters in Latvia , or even Riga. .

Latvia ‘s neoliberal theme park for foreign investors fashioned by Washington Consensus policies has a dark side. The country has the lowest labor productivity of all 25 EU nations. Moreover, it has poorest labor safety record in the EU. Labor union rates are among the lowest in the EU. This is matched by towering rates of alcoholism, with men dying at 60, thus having returned to 19th century mortality levels. HIV and drug-resistant TB also thrive. Pensioners live in abject poverty. [Plus very high suicide rates. Eds.] Also, more Latvians have fled Latvian poverty to “old Europe ” since independence than Stalin ever deported.

As any one who has visited Riga knows, its women sparkle. Yet, this has created a raging sex stag tourist trade fueled by cheap Ryanair flights. One UNDP report cites over 15,000 women a year from the former USSR are being trafficked West through Riga each year. Additionally, only Soviet levels of distortion could permit its government to be characterized as a democracy. Its elected government functions as an electoral oligarchy (or grabocracy) in which shifting constellations of interests form parties in order to get more than their share. To be fair, many unelected officials in the bureaucracy are honest and talented. These rarely rise to the top.

This is the democracy George Bush celebrated and hailed in Latvia during his NATO visit. Its economy is open and it supports the US mission in Iraq.

There are many good things in Latvia to highlight, but what the Bush administration is really interested in is some semblance of international legitimacy for his adventure and the two cited above. Reflecting the opinions of their public, many in Western EU nations (“old Europe “) continue resisting Bush’s neoliberal program and the Iraqi adventure. Latvia and Estonia, where Bush just stopped, are part of the new improved Europe , where its electoral oligarchies reject public opinion on the economy and Iraq. Indeed, some 70% of Latvians have consistently opposed the Iraq war.

CHRISTOPHER FONS teaches US history in Milwaukee and runs the Red and the Black website. He can be reached at: fonscy@yahoo.com

 

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]