Protests against Latvian regional reforms could cause transport trouble

Planned protests against regional administrative reform on March 5 could result in tail-backs and congestion on several roads, reported LTV on March 4.

Demonstrators are set to vent their opposition to the restructuring of local government, which will in many cases see existing municipalities combined into larger units, by blocking roads and driving tractors and other farm machinery around.

The main road through the small northern Latvian town of Strenči will be blocked - and there are not a lot of other roads in Strenči - as locals voice opposition to being amagamated with adjoining Valka district.

In addition an estimated 400 heavy-duty vehicles will take to the roads at various locations and cruise at low speed, with traffic jams and road rage potentially resulting in Jelgava and Salacgrīva in particular. 

There will also be a picket outside the Saeima, with Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Juris Pūce, probably guaranteed a rough reception as he has been spearheading the reform drive. He spoke to LSM at the start of the process a year ago, outlining the reasons he believes the changes are necessary.

On Thursday, some of the reforms produced by the appropriate Saeima commission will be given a second reading, with a large number of amendments proposed. Therefore a lengthy debate is likely. 

One of the protest organizers, Pēteris Dimants, said the aim was to cause as much chaos as possible if demands are not met.

"Our goal is to completely paralyze Rīga if we are not heard. If necessary, we are ready to bring crap to Riga too, to cause a stink, so they will pay more attention to us," he promised in an interview with LTV.

The exact nature of the crap to be conveyed to the capital was not specified.

Dimants is secretary general of the Green Party, and the prospect of "green" politicians protesting by means of firing up their big-block diesel engines and driving around for a few hours generating not-inconsiderate particulate emissions is one that will probably cause green politicians elsewhere to scratch their heads and reach for a ginseng teabag. 

Further protests have been promised if protesters are not satisfied.

 

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