Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Minister quits amid Latvian anger

Latvian farmers protest in Riga
Latvian farmers have been demanding more state support

The agriculture minister of Latvia has been forced to resign in the wake of growing protests by farmers.

Minister Martins Roze announced his resignation even as the cabinet agreed a big rescue package for farmers.

On Tuesday they picketed the agriculture ministry and delivered cows' heads in a coffin.

The government survived a confidence vote on Wednesday. Latvia has faced growing discontent following its headlong plummet from boom to bust.

Until recently the Baltic nation had racked up one of the fastest growth rates in the European Union - but faced accompanying problems like rampant wage growth, a vertiginous rise in house prices and rapid inflation.

In recent months, however, the economy has gone sharply into reverse, and is expected to contract by at least 5% this year.

Mark Mardell
Just about every interest group blames the government for making the economic crisis worse
Mark Mardell
BBC Europe editor

Last month hundreds of demonstrators clashed with riot police in Latvia's capital, Riga.

It followed a peaceful rally in which some 10,000 people accused the government of economic mismanagement and demanded new elections.

Angry farmers have been demanding more state support, and on Tuesday picketed the agriculture ministry and blocked a main road into Riga.

The government agreed to a farm aid package worth 27m lats (39m euros, 34m), but Martins Roze, who accused the farmers of being motivated by politics not economics, resigned.

The government survived a crucial test on Wednesday, however, as parliament rejected a no confidence motion.

MPs voted 51-40 against the motion, which if it had passed would have forced Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis and his cabinet to step down.

The four parties in the governing coalition have been beset by internal fighting.

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