Cablegate: Peoples Party's Junkyard Dog: Gundars Berzins

DE RUEHRA #0348/01 1681151
R 161151Z JUN 08



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Peoples Party's Junkyard Dog: Gundars Berzins

1. Summary. For almost a year, one of the leading members of the
People's Party (TP) Gundars Berzins has regularly given interviews
to daily paper Neatkariga Rita Avize (NRA) where he harshly and
offensively criticizes developments, institutions, persons that
according to his views hamper the implementation of the TP's
intentions and policies. A constant object of his criticism has been
the U.S., in particular the Embassy and the former Ambassador, who
according to Berzins, was "intervening in Latvia's domestic affairs
and squeezing Latvian politicians like lemons." His influence within
the party, as well as the lack of any desire by others in the party
to distance themselves from his statements leads to a conclusion
that Berzins' statements are something more than personal views of
Mr. Berzins. While they may not be the official views of TP, party
leaders certainly see value in a bit of anti-American rhetoric for
their voters. End summary.

2. For almost a year one of the most influential People's Party
members Gundars Berzins has had a series of interviews mostly with a
daily NRA (the fact, that the daily is owned by Ventspils Mayor
Aivars Lembergs should not be underestimated either). Each
interview is full of extremely rude, often obscene, statements aimed
at various high officials. His attacks started last fall just before
the previous Ambassador gave a speech at the University of Latvia on
the status of rule of law in Latvia. Berzins reproached the U.S.
Ambassador for what he termed constant interventions into Latvian
domestic affairs and attacked Latvian politicians for being too weak
to oppose her.

3. Then followed a series of interviews where Berzins continued
voicing strong anti-American stances along with harsh criticism
towards any official, and institution, including "Diena," the
anti-corruption bureau (KNAB) and its chief Loskutovs, Latvian
President Zatlers, intelligence (SAB) chief Kazocins, Prosecutor
General Maizitis, and others. The level of criticism seemed in
direct proportion to activities that might run counter to the
interests of TP or its supporters. As debate began on the
possibility of reelecting Kazocins, Berzins claimed (falsely) that
Kazocins visitd the Embassy 2 - 3 times a week and compared him to a
kitchen maid for the US Ambassador.

4. His statements are often openly rude and provocative. For
instance, when asked to comment on a statement of former Minister of
Foreign Affairs Artis Pabriks [when Pabriks decided to resign as
minister and also leave TP Pabriks stated that some comments of the
TP oldest members, clearly meaning Berzins, on alleged US
intervention in Latvia's affairs are not acceptable] Berzins
responded "the little boy should change his wet pampers, put on the
new ones and then come out to the public and reveal his true views
on restitution to the Jewish community." (adding some anti-Semitism
to go with anti-Americanism). Berzins did not spare even President
Zatles, although he was among a handful of people who participated
in the selection and "training" of the candidate. In one interview,
following the collapse of the Kalvitis government and after Zatlers
rejected TP's candidate for PM, Berzins compared President Zatlers
to a carpet that just lays there and where one can urinate or even
defecate on. (Comment: The President is reported to have had a
colorful reaction in his own right. End comment.)

5. More recently, as the scandal on money missing from the KNAB has
grown, Berzns has suggested that there is a "cancer" in the security
institutions that threatens Latvia. He has been especially critical
of KNAB chief Loskutovs. Loskutovs and his supporters note with a
combination or amusement and disbelief that last fall, during
Kalvitis' attempts to remove Loskutovs, Berzins talked about more
than 100,000 lats being missing from KNAB -- a fact that did not
become known to the KNAB or prosecutors office until April of this

6. The response of TP members is notable for often being
non-existent. None of Berzins' statements have been officially
supported by his party or individual members. At the same time,
there have not been any attempts of the party or its individual
members to condemn or distance themselves from the offensive and
ungrounded statements. The usual response of individual party
members when asked to comment the statements has been that those are
personal views of Gundars Berzins and he has the right to voice his
personal views. While people who are not related to TP are not
convinced that those are simply Berzins' personal views because of
his status within the party.

7. Comment: Berzins statements should be seen in the context of his
status within the TP. Berzins is probably the second most
influential person within the party, after founder Andris Skele.
Berzins was one of a original founders of the party and has managed
to remain one of Skele's closest associates. He has been quite
successful in public politics: he has been elected to parliament
several times, including the last two parliaments. In 2004, he
became minister of health in the Kalvitis government and continued
to be a health minister also in the next Kalvitis government after
the 2006 elections, resigning in 2007 saying he needed to rest. Some
signs of anti-Americanism were observed when he strongly lobbied
prohibition of the sale of Coca-cola in schools in 2006. The rules
he proposed unfairly targeted Coca-Cola in comparison to other

RIGA 00000348 002 OF 002

similar brands and he refused multiple offers by the company to
discuss alternative resolutions to his concerns. After leaving
politics, he claimed that he would fully devote himself to farming
business. However, he is still quite a visible figure in Latvian
political scene - he is believed to be the one who noticed potential
prime ministers in Kalvitis and TP nominee last fall to succeed
Kalvitis, Kuldiga mayor Edgars Zalans. He is also participating in
all crucial high level and quite often confidential inter-party
meetings. From time to time, his name is mentioned as a potential TP
candidate for the post of Prime Minister.

8. Comment, cont: Most of Berzins' statements are not based on
verifiable facts and his tone is often simply offensive and rude.
However, the statements should not be underestimated either, because
they are published in one of the biggest Latvian dailies and the
timing and content of the interviews seem to be rather well planned.
Whatever the reason for them and whatever the origin, his statements
are used as an instrument to a voice within TP on issues which could
not be included in its official policy, including attacking the U.S.
Nevertheless, these views resonate with a certain part of the
electorate, so TP is perfectly happy to reap the political benefit
of such attacks.


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