Czech press survey - May 22


22.05.2014 07:21

Prague - The tough sentences for the protagonists of the "methanol case," or lethal bootleg alcohol that killed dozens of people, are understandable, but the state should also punish itself for having done nothing to prevent the deaths, Petr Kambersky writes in daily Lidove noviny (LN) today.


Krajský soud ve Zlíně uložil 21. května údajným míchačům a prodejcům metanolem kontaminované směsi mnohaleté tresty za obecné ohrožení nebo přípravu a účast na ohrožení v hlavní, takzvané zlínské větvi metanolové kauzy. Na snímku je předseda senátu Radomír Koudela. ČTK Glück Dalibor

He reacts to the verdict that a Czech court imposed on Wednesday and that has not taken effect yet.

It is hard to oppose the judge´s words that the sentences, including two life imprisonments, should discourage potential future perpetrators. True, it will discourage them from using lethal methyl alcohol as a component to produce bootleg spirits. However, it will not discourage them from taking other illegal steps resulting in another similar disaster, Kambersky writes.

In a way, it is easy to punish crime, but it is far more difficult to prevent it, he says.

Too many professionals knew about the bootleg alcohol production for many years, but the state did almost nothing about it. Apart from convicting the suspects, the state should therefore also punish itself as well, Kambersky adds.

Daily Pravo´s commentator Jan Martinek, too, says that unlike other murders, that can be ascribed to the failures of individuals, the state´s own failure contributed to the methanol affair, whose unprecedented number of fatalities is comparable only with the devastating floods in 1997.

In late 2012, when the scandal broke out, it was far from the first time that people were blinded or even killed by tainted alcohol, Martinek writes.

Business with illegal spirits flourished in the Czech Republic for many years, which the control and also law enforcement bodies watched inactively. No one reacted as one victim died now and then. In 2012, the authorities and politicians "woke up" in reaction to almost 50 fatalities and started to fight against poisonous spirit, though mainly verbally, Martinek writes.

Probably in reaction to the state´s passiveness, the judge on Wednesday imposed tough sentences in the "methanol case" in order to discourage others from trying to enrich themselves by bootleg alcohol production, Martinek writes.

Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) appreciates Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka´s (Social Democrats, CSSD) vow to raise the defence spending that has declined by some 25 percent in the past decade to the detriment of the country´s defence capability.

Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) was even recently rebuked for it by his U.S. counterpart Chuck Hagel, which is understandable in a situation where the U.S. spends 2 percent of its GDP on defence, compared with the Czech 1 percent, commentator Teodor Marjanovic writes.

To meet people´s wish, Czech politicians prefer investing money in sectors such as health care, pensions and road infrastructure. Moreover, they are unwilling to pour money in defence, a sector burdened with dirty corruption that even courts are unable to cope with, Marjanovic writes, citing the inconclusive investigation into suspected corruption accompanying the Czech acquisition of Pandur APCs and the Gripen fighter aircraft.

On top of it, Czechs traditionally take a reserved or even mock approach to the military, Marjanovic says.

That is why Sobotka´s determination to raise the defence spending to 1.4 percent of GDP in the next six years is impressive. However, to deserve ovations he must fulfil the promise first, Marjanovic adds.

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