Tijdens de research kregen we interessante berichten van diverse Metropolis correspondenten. De bijdrage van Letland, waar de crisis er werkelijk in heeft gehakt, smaakte naar meer. Natalija Gnezdova en Jean Counet volgen voor Tegenlicht de ontwikkelingen in het door werkloosheid en criminaliteit geteisterde Letland.

Never walk alone
Everything goes fine here with shooting, we have some really nice stories already! The situation is Latvia is both storming and calm at the same time.  It is Christmas time, so people try not to think about anything until after all holidays, but there are first signs that it is going to be very bad next year. With the announcement of the budget for 2010, the government is already talking about the need to cut  for more than 700 million. A huge sum for a country as Latvia.

It is the first time since I remember walking anywhere alone, especially in the dark, can end up very badly. People are killed and attacked on the streets by robbers. Today there was an article that lots of Latvians are buying guns and other protections means. There is a rule that you should try never to take cash from the cash machine alone.

Interesting enough Latvian media and Russian media in Latvia portray news very differently. In Latvian media everything is kind of fine, they mention things in between the lines. Russian media is very sharp and economic crisis is their main concern and subject. We record news reports from different channels daily and see how much they differ.

Unemployment keeps rising
With every day it gets more and more terrifying of what is happening here. The official unemployment which is above 20% (which means that unofficial is around 35%-40% if not more). In cities like Rezekne the official unemployment is already more than 30%. There are 1000 unemployed registered daily, but people say that this is just because of lack of capacity, you have to make appointment and wait for over a week to be registered as unemployed, state offices are overcrowded and don't manage to register more than 1000 a day.

Government is pointing on support programs for the unemployed. There are special subsidies, which give you the possibility to work for 100-150 Lats (150-250 Euros) a month for six months, and then for six months you have no right to work. This is really little money: my parents pay the same amount just for heating and water of the apartment. So imagine how it is possible to live for this money. Anyway there is a huge queue of people who are ready to do it.

We also heard a story of how banks are treating people. A woman with two children and an unemployed husband got her unemployment benefit 180 Lats (240 Euros) and the same day the bank took the whole sum away from her account, as she didn't pay one of the loans she has. The family stayed without any money for a month, they have nothing to feed children with, nowhere to borrow. Lots of stories like this.

Aneways, please let me know if you need any more information. We hope you will like the material we shot. Let's keep in touch!

Greetings from freezing Latvia,


No options but protest
We have spent some hours with protesters in the commune in the tents in the center of Riga. It is terrifying that those people are staying and sleeping there while it is almost -20 degrees with an ice cold wind. We have very interesting material from them as well. The guy who started the protest is saying that he has only two options: to stay and protest till something is done or to go abroad. Others are saying that they have no option to go abroad, the only difference for them is to die at home from hunger or to stay and have a hunger strike and die there.

Hier is het eerste verhaal van Natalija Gnezdova en Jean Counet te lezen.