Violence erupts in Latvia

A friend living in Latvia wrote that he was “stunned by the chaos that broke out in Riga this evening.”  I had heard absolutely nothing about it until he told me.  Apparently, a peaceful protest outside Parliament turned bloody when the police started to crack down on protesters.  126 people were arrested. (Hat tip: Ken)

I looked for the story and found it on Bloomberg.

Latvian police detained 126 people after a peaceful protest by about 10,000 people calling for a referendum and elections turned into a riot, said Sigita Pildava, a police spokeswoman.

Police used pepper spray and batons to disperse protesters who had gathered in Riga’s old city, chanting “dissolve parliament,” and some crowd members broke windows in the Finance Ministry and a liquor store. A police car was set on fire, windows in the parliament were shattered and 28 people were injured, the Leta newswire reported.

The protest, organized by opposition political parties, trade unions and non-governmental organizations, called on the president to hold a referendum leading to new parliamentary elections less than a month after the country secured financial aid to bolster its economy.

Latvia received a 7.5 billion-euro ($9.9 billion) international aid package in December from a group led by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the Nordic countries. The Latvian economy contracted 4.6 percent in the third quarter from the same period a year earlier and the government took over the country’s second-biggest bank.

Needless to say, these are the types of things I expect to happen in the present fragile economic state — and the types of clashes we should try to avoid. Moreover, the Baltics and all of Eastern Europe have just seen a speculative frenzy collapse, so I expect to hear more about loan losses and economic downturn across the region. Latvia needs to depreciate its currency. That can definitely ease some of the pain. My hope is that leaders in the region will adopt the right policy prescriptions to minimize civil unrest like this.

Latvia Protest Sparks Clashes Outside Parliament; 126 Detained –

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