Highs And Lows


new internationalist
issue 200 - October 1989

Highs and lows
The key events from two decades in
the life of the world, from the
point of view of the poor.

EGYPT President Gamel Abdel Nasser dies. A leading figure in the Arab world, sure that the Third World should not align with either superpower.

CHILE Election of Salvador Allende, the first Marxist to win a presidential election in a Western-style democracy.

JORDAN Palestinian camps are wiped out by the Jordanian army.

CAMBODIA Prince Sihanouk is deposed by pro-US army leaders. US President Nixon orders the saturation bombing of Cambodia and Laos.



Idi Amin seizes power. Tribal killings begin.

IRAN The Shah celebrates the 25th centenary of the Persian Empire with an orgy of conspicuous consumption.

UNITED STATES The dollar is dramatically devalued to help pay for the Vietnam War. This reduces the national reserves of most countries.

Photo by: CAMERA PRESS BANGLADESH West Pakistan's army invades rebellious East Pakistan. India declares war, defeats Pakistan and establishes the state of Bangladesh. Famine, disease and war cause 1.5 million deaths and 10 million refugees.

CHINA The United Nations finally recognizes Communist China, having supported the Nationalist exiles in Taiwan, Mao Zedong asserts the idea of 'continual revolution' and launches a second phase of the Cultural Revolution. Many ministers are deposed.



BURUNDI A rebellion by the Hutu people results in 80,000 being slaughtered by the ruling Tutsis.

Photo by: CAMERA PRESS UNITED STATES The US holds farm land out of production. The USSR buys a quarter of the wheat crop and the resulting high world prices help start a worldwide inflation spiral.

SAHEL Famine causes up to 100,000 deaths. It is caused not only by drought but also by high world food prices and use of land by cash-crop exports.

UNITED NATIONS Environment Conference in Stockholm recognizes that overconsumption by the rich world brings waste and pollution while depriving the poor of basic needs.

VIETNAM US troops are forced to withdraw after seven years of war.



CHILE The military seize power, encouraged by the US Central Intelligence Agency. President Allende is murdered and General Pinochet begins his bloody dictatorship.

ISRAEL Egypt and Syria attack Israeli positions but Israel wins the war, strengthening its hold on the Sinai and the Golan Heights.

OPEC The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries raises oil prices by 450 per cent in a year. This leads to a massive transfer of wealth and power to these mainly Muslim states over the next decade. It helps to fuel inflation and cause deepening recession, especially in the non-oil developing world.

ARGENTINA Military government is forced out by popular pressure - the demagogic Juan Peron returns.

ETHIOPIA Around 100,000 people die in a famine affecting four million people.



ETHIOPIA Emperor Haile Selassie is ousted by a military coup. Power is assumed by a committee called the Dergue. led by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam.

Photo by: CAMERA PRESS PORTUGAL The strain and cost of fighting rebels in its colonies finally causes an army revolt and the fall of Portugal's fascist government. The new Government announces independence for Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau and later Cape Verde.

UNITED STATES The Watergate cover-up finally leads to the resignation of US President Nixon.

UNITED NATIONS calls for a New International Economic Order, establishing fairer terms for trade between the West and the Third World. Very little happens as a result.



INDO-CHINA The capitals of South Vietnam and Cambodia - Saigon and Phnom Penh - fall to Communist forces. Vietnam is reunited.

LEBANON The internecine war that is to continue until the present day begins with a battle between right-wing Christian Falangists and left-wing Muslim Palestinians.

INDONESIA invades the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. Tens of thousands of deaths are followed by a guerilla war that continues today.

INDIA Indira Gandhi declares a State of Emergency, detaining opposition leaders without trial and launching a 'family planning' campaign which involves compulsory sterilization

UNITED NATIONS declares this International Women's Year.



ANGOLA South Africa invades - but is rebuffed by Angolan and Cuban troops.

CHINA Death of Mao Zedong, leader since the Revolution in 1949. China also suffers the worst earthquake of the decade at Tangshan, which kills half a million people.

Photo by: CAMERA PRESS ARGENTINA falls to another military coup.

PERU General Velasco dies and his unique attempt at left-wing military government is over.

SOUTH AFRICA Black students riot in Soweto in protest against the imposition of Afrikaans as the official language in schools. Up to 500 black people are killed by the security forces.

UNITED STATES Jimmy Carter's election as President means more concern about human rights and reduced US support for repressive regimes in Latin America.



INDIA Indira Gandhi is defeated in the Indian election due to popular protest at her Emergency.

ETHIOPIA Soviet and Cuban support is enlisted by the Dergue for its war against Somalia and Eritrea.

SOUTH AFRICA Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko is murdered in prison by police.



AFGHANISTAN A military coup installs a Soviet-orientated regime.

UNITED NATIONS World Health Organization announces the eradication of smallpox after a worldwide immunization campaign. A Conference on Health at Alma Ata advocates primary health care - training local workers to combat basic diseases - instead of prestige Western-style hospitals.

EGYPT The poor riot in Egypt as food subsidies are withdrawn on US insistence. The subsidies are re-instated. The Camp David accords are concluded with Israel - Egypt regains the Sinai Desert in return for peace.



IRAN The Shah is deposed by a popular uprising and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns from exile in Paris to launch an Islamic revolution.

NICARAGUA The Sandinista Revolution ousts dictator Somoza.

UGANDA Idi Amin is deposed by invading Tanzanian forces. Milton Obote (the president deposed by Amin) eventually regains power.

UNITED STATES A major nuclear accident at Three Mile Island.

CAMBODIA Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime is deposed by invading Vietnamese forces. The world eventually realizes that two million Cambodians died under Khmer Rouge rule.

AFGHANISTAN Soviet forces invade to prop up a beleaguered government.



ZIMBABWE gains its independence with Robert Mugabe as its first prime minister.

EL SALVADOR Progressive Archbishop Romero is assassinated by right-wing forces. Three US nuns and a missionary are murdered by the army

Photo by: CAMERA PRESS EAST AFRICA Famine threatens 10 million people - in Somalia and Uganda 500 people are dying each day.

IRAN/IRAQ War erupts, and is to form bloody backdrop for most of the decade.

UNITED STATES Ronald Reagan is elected President - following Margaret Thatcher's victory in Britain the previous year, right-wing dominance in the West for the 1980s is assured.

INDIA Indira Gandhi wins back power.



IRELAND IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands dies, drawing world attention to British policies in Northern Ireland.

UNITED STATES The first reports of people dying from the mystery disease later identified as AIDS.

GHANA Jerry Rawlings assumes power for the second time.

EGYPT President Sadat assassinated. 

POLAND Martial law is declared after the success of the independent trade union Solidarity.



ARGENTINA invades the Falklands/ Malvinas Islands. Britain recaptures them by sending a large naval task force. British Conservatism is reinvigorated by this echo of former military power.

LEBANON Israel invades. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is forced to leave Beirut and Palestinians in the refugee camps are eventually massacred by Lebanese Christian forces.

BRITAIN Women protesting at the installation of 'Cruise' nuclear missiles establish a permanent peace camp at Greenham Common airbase.

USSR Death of Leonid Brezhnev.



NIGERIA A million Ghanaian migrant workers are expelled.

INDIA The worst sectarian violence since Partition sees 600 Muslim refugees massacred in Assam.

NICARAGUA President Reagan openly backs the Contra guerillas against the Nicaraguan Sandinista Government for the first time. Managua's civilian population is attacked from the air.

Photo by: CAMERA PRESS CHAD Libyan forces capture one-half of the country on behalf of one side in the civil war. France sends troops to help the other side.

PHILIPPINES Benigno Aquino, leader of the opposition to Ferdinand Marcos's regime, is murdered at Manila airport as he returns from exile.

GRENADA Revolutionary leader Maurice Bishop is murdered by a disputing faction: the US seizes the chance to invade.

SOUTH AFRICA Whites agree in a referendum to give 'coloureds' and 'Indians' the vote - but not the majority African population.

ARGENTINA Democracy is restored in Argentina as Raul Alfonsin wins the presidential election.



NIGERIA The military seizes power.

MOZAMBIQUE signs an non-aggression pact with South Africa, the Nkomati Accord, but South Africa continues to supply the Renamo guerillas.

USSR Death of reformist leader Yuri Andropov before he could have an impact on Brezhnev's system

AFRICA A major famine affects 150 million people in 24 countries. The world does not wake up to it until a TV report captures the popular imagination at the end of the year.

NICARAGUA The International Court of Justice condemns US support for the Contras and the mining of Nicaraguan ports. The US ignores the ruling.

INDIA Troops storm the Sikh stronghold of the Golden Temple, causing widespread resentment which eventually results in the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Her son Rajiv wins a sympathetic landslide in an election. Thousands die and many more are mutilated by an eruption of poisonous gas from the multinational Union Carbide's chemical plant at Bhopal. This is the world's worst industrial disaster.

PHILIPPINES A typhoon kills 1,000.



SOUTH AFRICA Many clashes as popular resistance to apartheid in the townships grows. Each death brings out greater opposition to the army in the streets, the world's attention is gained and held, and revolution, for a brief brilliant moment seems possible.

UNITED NATIONS A conference in Nairobi marks the end of the UN Decade for Women. The US withdraws from UNESCO, signalling a general disengagement from the UN.

BRAZIL has its first civilian president for 21 years.

USSR Death of old-guard Soviet leader Chernenko. His replacement Mikhail Gorbachev ushers in a new era of reform, beginning with a unilateral 10-month freeze on deploying new weapons.

BANGLADESH A cyclone and tidal wave kills 10,000.

PERU New President Alan Garcia says Peru will pay back to the banks no more than 10 per cent of its annual export earnings. His similarly debt-crippled Latin American neighbours fail to back him.

MEXICO An earthquake in Mexico City kills at least 2,000.

COLOMBIA A mudslide buries whole communities and kills 20,000.



USSR Mikhail Gorbachev proposes the elimination of nuclear weapons by the year 2000. A major catastrophe at the nuclear power plant of Chernobyl spreads radiation over much of Europe.

UGANDA Civil war culminates in the victory of the National Resistance Army. Yoweri Museveni becomes President and at last begins reconstruction.

PHILIPPINES The tyrant Ferdinand Marcos is deposed by popular demonstrations which thrust his election opponent Corazon Aquino to power.

Photo by: CAMERA PRESS HAITI Another dictator is ousted - Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier.

LIBYA US planes attack Tripoli in an attempt to kill Colonel Gadafy.

SOUTH AFRICA A full and indefinite state of emergency is declared in the wake of continued township and labour unrest. Black opposition leaders are arrested, a press clampdown begins and resistance is strangled. The US imposes sanctions, against President Reagan's will. IBM, General Motors, and Barclays are among the companies who disinvest.

CAMEROON A massive effusion of poisonous gas from a volcanic lake kills 1,500 people, most in their sleep.

MOZAMBIQUE President Samora Machel dies in a plane crash. South African involvement is suspected but never proved.

UNITED STATES The Irangate scandal begins.

CHINA Students demonstrate in favour of greater democracy.



SOUTH KOREA Widespread student unrest is followed by an allegedly fraudulent election victory for the Government candidate.

FIJI A coup on behalf of the indigenous minority stops an lndian-orientated government assuming power.

Photo by: CAMERA PRESS SOUTH AFRICA Nelson Mandela completes 25 years in jail.

CENTRAL AMERICA The five countries sign a peace agreement.

PALESTINE PLO leader Yasser Arafat publicly recognizes Israel's right to exist. The world does not notice for another year.

WORLD The world's population tops five billion. The prices of the commodities exported by Third World countries, which have declined throughout the 1980s, reach their lowest level of the decade, at around 65 per cent of their average value in the 1970s. The world's stock markets crash in the biggest nosedive since 1929. The predicted recession does not happen.

UNITED NATIONS Publication of Our Common Future, the report of the Brundtland Commission on the state of the world's environment. It calls for immediate action but nothing happens.

BURKINA FASO Murder of Thomas Sankara, one of Africa's most promising revolutionary leaders.

LATIN AMERICA spends 36 per cent of its export earnings on servicing its foreign debt.



AFGHANISTAN The USSR starts to withdraw its troops - and completes the process by early 1989.

US/USSR The first-ever treaty delivering cuts in nuclear weapons is signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

PALESTINE The PLO's recognition of Israel is finally understood by the West:the US agrees to talk to them.

CHILE An 'election' in Chile asks simply whether General Pinochet should remain as President. The answer is 'No!'

IRAN/IRAQ Finally, a ceasefire after a punishing eight-year war.

PARAGUAY General Alfredo Stroessner is tumbled into exile after 34 years of dictatorship.

UNITED STATES George Bush is elected President.

BURMA People take to the streets to demand a change in the rigid political system. The old guard survives for the present.

TIBET The latest Chinese atrocity sees demonstrating Buddhist monks shot dead by occupying troops.



NAMIBIA wins its independence from South Africa; SWAPO and other exiles return to take part in the first general election.

USSR The first genuine elections since the early days of the Revolution establish a new Parliament, though the Communist Party remains unchallenged.

WORLD Escalating concern over the global environment is finally registered by world leaders. In elections to the European Community, the vote for Green parties increases dramatically.

SOUTH AFRICA Nelson Mandela, though still imprisoned, meets President Botha. Botha. however, is replaced by a new Nationalist leader, FW De Klerk, who promises only cosmetic changes to apartheid.

CHINA Hundreds of thousands of Chinese students and workers rally in favour of greater democracy. The world's imagination is caught. But the old guard in the leadership sends in the tanks and introduces a new phase of vicious repression.

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New Internationalist issue 200 magazine cover This article is from the October 1989 issue of New Internationalist.
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