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First row, L-R: Aivars Jerumanis, Valdis Pavlovskis, Angela Nelsas, Aavo Reinfeldt, Renee Meriste, Talivaldis Paegle, Guna Reine, Hendrik Leesment, Ed Anderson. Second: Ivars Miculs, Heino Nurmberg, Arne Kalm, Teodors Liliensteins, Janis Lacis. Missing: I. Leitis, A. Kudukis. Photo: A. Jerumanis


Los Angeles, February 16, 2018. -- The Baltic American Freedom League (BAFL) held its annual meeting in Los Angeles and elected Aavo Reinfeldt as its president for the ensuing year.


Reinfeldt is a retired bank executive, originally from New Jersey, who now lives in San Diego, California. He is an elected member of the Estonian American National Council and a board member of the Estonian World Council. He also acts as a visiting foreign lecturer in the Department of Economics and Finance at the Estonian Business School in Tallinn, Estonia.


Former president Valdis Pavlovskis (Latvian) was elected to the position of Executive Vice President. Angela Nelsas (Lithuanian), and Renee Meriste (Estonian) will serve as vice presidents. Other officers will include Talivaldis Paegle as Treasurer and Alexandra Kudukis as Secretary.


There was lengthy discussion about priorities for the coming year. BAFL will continue to inform members of the United States Congress about matters of importance to the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Active current topics include the United States military budget for forces stationed in the Baltics and funding to combat the provocative and false information operation conducted by Russia against the Baltic nations and the NATO alliance.


The need to recruit additional members to the Baltic caucuses in the House and Senate was discussed. The respective Caucuses in the House and Senate have been important avenues for introducing legislation that supports ongoing democracy in the Baltic countries. Angela Nelsas reflected on BAFL’s activities in initiating the idea of a House Baltic Caucus with Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) in the 1990’s and on its successful launch in 1997 with Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) as chairman. Recently it celebrated its twentieth anniversary at an event in Washington, DC attended by parliamentary representatives from each of the three Baltic countries.


Incoming president Reinfeldt pledged to seek closer cooperation with the Joint Baltic-American National Committee (JBANC) to avoid duplication of effort. He had recently visited Washington, DC for meetings with Congressional representatives and a session with the managing director of JBANC.


Financial statements for BAFL were presented along with the need for continuing fund-raising to support ongoing programs. The annual awards dinner was tentatively set for April 14. The renowned Estonian-American artist Mark Kostabi will be the featured speaker and one of his original works will be offered at auction.


Founded in 1981, the Baltic American Freedom League is an organization of Americans dedicated to defending the interests and concerns of the Baltic-American community regarding continuing independence and sovereignty for the Baltic countries.


Arne Kalm


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