Categotry Archives: Politicians

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Jose Lopez Portillo

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Categories: Politicians

When the former president of Mexico appeared in public, people mocked him by barking in his direction. He was referred to as “El Perro” (The Dog) and his mansion overlooking Mexico City became known as “Dog Hill.”
From 1976 to 1982, Jose Lopez Portillo y Pachecho ruled Mexico. It became the world’s fourth largest oil producer during this period, but when oil prices fell in the early ’80s, inflation soared. In response, Lopez Portillo promised to defend the peso “like a dog.” In 1982, he devalued it by 41.7 percent.
Lopez Portillo presided over an administration known for its nepotism, graft and corruption. He gave political asylum to foreign exiles and offered amnesty to Mexican political prisoners and leftists. At the same time, he allowed suspected dissidents to be persecuted, kidnapped and murdered in what became known as Mexico’s “dirty war.”
After nationalizing the banking industry, Lopez Portillo left the presidential palace in disgrace, handing over a country in severe economic crisis to his successor Miguel de la Madrid. In his final address to Congress, Lopez Portillo broke down in tears and apologized to the poor people of Mexico.
Born in 1920, Lopez Portillo studied law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He practiced for a short time, then returned to his alma mater to teach political science. At 39, he joined the Institutional Revolutionary Party and worked his way up through the administrative ranks. After spending three years as finance minister under former president Luis Echeverria, Lopez Portillo was nominated for the presidency and ran unopposed.
Lopez Portillo died on Feb. 17 from complications of pneumonia. He was 83.

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Warren Zimmermann

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Categories: Politicians

Warren Zimmermann, the last American ambassador to Yugoslavia before its breakup, died on Feb. 2 from pancreatic cancer. He was 69.
Zimmermann graduated from Yale and was a Fulbright scholar at Cambridge University. He entered the diplomatic corps in 1961, then spent the next three decades serving in France, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela and the Soviet Union. He was chairman of the United States delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and served as a deputy in negotiations with the Soviet Union over nuclear arms and space.
President George H.W. Bush named Zimmermann ambassador to Yugoslavia in 1989, where he remained until the outbreak of civil war in 1992. The war, which pitted the country’s Muslims, Orthodox Christian Serbs and Catholic Croats against each other, lasted until 1995 and killed 260,000 people.
When President Bill Clinton refused to intervene in the war in Bosnia, Zimmermann resigned in protest from the Foreign Service. Clinton later persuaded NATO to bomb Bosnian Serb artillery positions and brought the leaders of the warring parties together to negotiate a peace deal.
Zimmermann received several State Department citations and the Sharansky Award from the Union of Councils of Soviet Jews. His later years were spent teaching international diplomacy at the Johns Hopkins School of International Affairs and Columbia University, and publishing articles for The New York Review of Books and Newsweek. His first book, “Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers,” won the American Academy of Diplomacy Book Award in 1997. Zimmermann followed it up with “First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made their Country a World Power,” which received the Academy’s Douglas Dillon Award in 2003.

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Jozef Lenart

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Categories: Politicians

Jozef Lenart, the former Czechoslovak prime minister who supported the Soviet occupation in 1968, died on Feb. 11 after undergoing heart surgery. He was 80.
Lenart served as prime minister of Czechoslovakia from 1963 to 1968, and headed the Slovak Communist Party until the regime collapsed in 1988. A year later, he and ex-Communist Party boss Milos Jakes were brought up on charges of high treason for attending a meeting at the Soviet Embassy in Prague on the day after the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion that squelched a popular anti-communism uprising. Known as the Prague Spring, the incident involved Soviet tanks rolling through the city’s streets. About 100 Czechs were killed.
Prosecutors also claimed the two high-ranking party apparatchiks attempted to establish a legal basis for the invasion by discussing the creation of a new “workers’ and farmers'” government. Though the pro-invasion government never took shape, it successfully undermined then-President Alexander Dubcek’s administration.
Lenart acquired Czech citizenship after Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. He was acquitted in 2002 of all charges, on the basis of insufficient evidence.

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Kalevi Sorsa

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Categories: Politicians

Kalevi Sorsa, Finland’s longest-serving prime minister, died on Jan. 16. Cause of death was not released. He was 73.
Sorsa studied journalism and political science, but dropped out of school before graduating. He became a reporter for Social Democratic Party-affiliated newspapers then worked as an editor at Tammi Publishers. In 1959, Sorsa joined the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a program specialist in Paris. There he gained both linguistic skills and international experience that would serve him well in the political arena.
Sorsa was elected to Parliament in 1970 and named chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee. Within five years, he became Prime Minister of Finland and the head of his party. From 1972 to 1989, Sorsa held the post of Foreign Minister three times, and that of Prime Minister four times.
After retiring from politics in 1991, Sorsa served as a member of the governing board of the Bank of Finland. His state funeral was attended by President Tarja Halonen, as well as former Presidents Mauno Koivisto and Martti Ahtisaari.

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Vasili Mitrokhin

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Categories: Criminals, Politicians, Writers/Editors

When KGB archivist Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin defected from the Soviet Union in 1992, he gave six trunks, full of incriminating files, to the British Secret Intelligence Service.
As a young adult, Mitrokhin attended the Higher Diplomatic Academy in Moscow, then joined the Soviet secret service in 1948. He worked as the chief archivist for the FCD, the foreign-intelligence arm of the KGB, for 30 years and spent 12 of those smuggling documents out of the office in his shoes. At home, he copied the files longhand and hid them in milk containers secreted under the floorboards of his home and in the back garden.
Disillusioned with his life, Mitrokhin contacted the CIA for help in 1995, offering 25,000 classified documents as his ticket out of the Soviet Union. The Americans didn’t believe his claims, so he turned to the British for aid. The Secret Intelligence Service accepted him as an MI6 agent, and flew him to Britain where he and his family received a home, a pension and new identities.
The copied KGB files formed the basis of the 1999 book, “The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB,” which was co-written by Cambridge University historian Christopher Andrew. Its tales of covert operations and assassination attempts were also serialized in The Times of London. The excerpts named several Britons as Soviet spies, including two former lawmakers, a Scotland Yard policeman and grandmother Melita Norwood. Norwood later acknowledged she’d been revealing nuclear secrets to the KGB for four decades.
Mitrokhin, who spent 14 years living in Britain under a false name and with police protection, died on Jan. 23 from pneumonia. He was 81.

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