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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail