Manuel Noriega

Manuel Noriega
Manuel Noriega

A close ally of the U.S. military and intelligence establishment from the late 1950s to the late 1980s, General Manuel Noriega was the dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989.

Intimately involved with U.S. covert efforts to overthrow the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua and to combat leftist revolutionary movements elsewhere in Central America, Noriega ran afoul of U.S. policy-makers in the aftermath of the Iran-contra affair; was indicted on federal drug charges in February 1988; and was overthrown in late December 1989 in the U.S. invasion of Panama.

He surrendered to U.S. officials in early January 1990; was transported to the United States; tried for drug trafficking in April 1992; found guilty in September; and sentenced to 40 years in prison, where he has remained. Convicted in France for money laundering, and in Panama in absentia for murder, it is unlikely that he will ever be freed.

Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno was born on February 11, 1938, in Panama City, the illegitimate child of a poor single woman who died when he was a small boy. Raised by his godmother in Panama City, he entered the military and was trained at the Military School of Chorrillos in Peru, where in the late 1950s he was recruited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

His relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies deepened during his training at the School of the Americas in Fort Gulick, Panama, where he completed his coursework in 1967. Commissioned as an intelligence officer in the Panama National Guard the same year, he rose rapidly in rank. In 1969 he helped dictator General Omar Torrijos fend off a coup attempt, and soon after was appointed the country’s Chief of Military Intelligence.

A shrewd political operator who deftly played both sides of the fence, through the 1970s he received hundreds of thousands of dollars as a CIA informant, and passed U.S. secrets to Fidel Castro and other U.S. adversaries. Allegedly complicit in the July 1981 plane crash that resulted in Torrijos’s death, with U.S. backing he became the country’s de facto head of state in August 1983.

By this time he was working closely with the administration of U.S. president Ronald Reagan in its efforts to overthrow the Sandinistas. He also used Panama’s strict secrecy laws to launch drug money-laundering operations, actively collaborating with the drug cartels of Medellín, Colombia.

Washington turned a blind eye to his role in the drug trade, emphasizing instead his collaboration with U.S. hemispheric "war on drugs". Despite mounting evidence of Noriega’s involvement in the drug trade, in 1987 Attorney General Edwin Meese issued Panama the Drug Enforcement Agency’s "highest commendation" for the country’s anti-narcotics efforts. Meanwhile Noriega’s base of support, in Washington and at home, had eroded.

The Iran-contra scandal purged Washington of many of his top supporters, while opposition in Panama mounted, mainly in consequence of his brutality in dealing with his opponents. The ax fell in February 1988 with a 12-count indictment on racketeering and narcotics charges issued by U.S. federal prosecutors.

After nearly two years of escalating tensions, on December 20, 1989, U.S. forces launched "Operation Just Cause", invading Panama, killing an estimated 300 civilians, wounding 3,000, and seizing Noriega. Launched in the name of the "war on drugs", the invasion had a negligible impact on the hemispheric drug trade, which has grown rapidly since.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trilateral trade pact among the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Implemented on January 1, 1994, the agreement is intended to foster open and unrestricted commercial relations among its three signatories.

Supplemental agreements, also part of NAFTA, are the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), and the Understanding on Emergency Action (Safeguards). Administered in the United States by the International Trade Administration of the Department of Commerce, NAFTA is one of several regional trading blocs in the Western Hemisphere.

These include the Andean Community of Nations (CAN, among Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru, f. 1969); the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM, f. 1973), the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR, among Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Paraguay, f. 1991), and the Central America–Dominican Republic–United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR, f. 2004).

NAFTA’s supporters conceive of the agreement as an important stepping stone in the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which would include the 34 nation-states and territories of the Western Hemisphere.

In its goal of fostering unrestricted commercial relations, NAFTA follows the principles of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and its successor, the World Trade Organization (WTO).

NAFTA has sparked a huge debate between its supporters and opponents. Its principal supporters in the private sector consist of the hemisphere’s largest corporations, most of which are based in the United States.

They argue that in all three countries NAFTA will increase living standards, create new jobs, protect the environment; and ensure compliance with labor laws. Its principal opponents include labor, environmental, faith-based, indigenous rights, and consumer rights groups.

They maintain that NAFTA, like the WTO, promotes a "race to the bottom" by favoring large corporations over smaller enterprises, benefiting the rich more than the poor; increasing inequality, causing a net loss of jobs, fostering environmental degradation, and failing to adequately protect the rights of workers.

The communiqués of sub-commander Marcos, spokesperson of the Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico—a group whose rebellion against the Mexican government was timed to coincide with NAFTA’s implementation—convey many of the principal arguments of NAFTA’s opponents.

A large scholarly literature mirrors this debate. On the whole, the evidence demonstrates that NAFTA has increased trade dramatically while failing to meet its supporters’ expectations with regard to employment, poverty, inequality, the environment, and labor rights. In Mexico, poverty, inequality, and unemployment have all increased substantially since NAFTA’s implementation.

In the United States and Canada, the creation of new jobs has not kept pace with the outflows of capital and jobs traceable to NAFTA. The leftward tilt in Latin American politics since the 1990s has buttressed that continent’s opposition to multilateral trade agreements like NAFTA, the WTO, and the proposed FTAA.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

The NATO alliance is dedicated to the maintenance of the democratic freedoms and territorial integrity of its 26 European and North American member countries through collective defense.

This alliance has been the dominant structure of European defense and security since its founding in 1949 and continues to serve as the most formal symbol of the United States’ commitment to defend Europe against aggression. Following the end of the cold war, the organization also took on a peacekeeping and stabilizing role within Eurasia.

NATO was founded with the Washington Treaty of April 4, 1949, which was signed by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Great Britain, and the United States.

The 12 founding members were later joined by 14 others, including Greece and Turkey, which allowed the alliance to secure the Mediterranean. From the outset, NATO was intended to deter Soviet expansion into central and western Europe.

The Washington Treaty reflected the will of the signatories to further democratic values and economic cooperation, to share the obligations of defense individually and collectively, to consult together in the face of threats, to regard an attack against one member as an attack against all members, and to collectively and individually assist the victims of an attack.

The treaty also delineated the geographic boundaries of the alliance, created the North Atlantic Council to implement the treaty, made provisions for new members to join, governed ratification according to constitutional processes, and made provisions for review of the treaty.

NATO’s civil and military organization materialized during 1949–95. The basic structures developed during this period remained into the 21st century. The civilian headquarters for the North Atlantic Council (NAC), which maintains effective political authority and powers of decision in NATO, is located in Brussels, Belgium.

NATO’s secretary-general chairs the NAC and oversees the work of the International Staff (IS). Member countries maintain permanent representatives. The council serves as a forum for frank and open diplomatic consultation and the coordination of strategic, defense, and foreign policy among the alliance members.

Action is agreed upon on the basis of common consensus rather than majority vote. Twice a year the defense ministers of the member countries meet at the NAC, and summit meetings involving the heads of state of each member country occur, during which major decisions over grand strategy or policy must be made.

After the end of the cold war, the NAC was supplemented by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) as well as the NATO-Russia Joint Council. These newer bodies facilitate peaceful coordination and cooperation between NATO and the Russian Federation and other former members of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact alliance.

The secretary-general of NATO also chairs the Defence Planning Committee (DPC), which is tasked with planning for the collective defense of the member countries. The DPC provides guidance to the alliance’s military authorities to improve common measures of collective defense and military integration. The DPC consists of the permanent representatives; like the NAC, the DPC also serves as a forum for meetings between the defense ministers of the member states twice a year.

The senior military representatives of the member states form the Military Committee. The Military Committee is subordinate to the NAC and consists of the chiefs of staff of the member nations, who advise the NAC on all military matters and who oversee the implementation of the measures necessary for the collective defense of the North Atlantic area.

The committee is supported by the International Military Staff (IMS), which meets twice a year at chiefs of staff level and more often at the national military representatives level. Until 2003 operational control of military forces operating under the NATO flag fell to Allied Command Europe and Allied Command Atlantic.

In 2003 NATO undertook a major restructuring of its military commands. The Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) became the Headquarters of Allied Command Operations (ACO). ACT is tasked with driving transformation in NATO and establishing future capabilities, while ACO is responsible for current operations.

Throughout the cold war NATO faced a powerful counter-alliance in the Warsaw Pact and turmoil within the organization itself. Indeed, in 1949 the alliance members could only marshal 14 divisions of military personnel against an estimated 175 Soviet divisions.

At the NAC meeting in 1952, the members established a goal of fielding 50 divisions backed up by several thousand aircraft by the end of the year and 96 divisions by 1955. Also in 1952 the alliance introduced a new strategic concept: mass conventional defense of Europe coupled with long-range nuclear strikes against the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact members.

However, the cost of raising the 96 divisions required to implement this strategy proved too great, and it was quickly abandoned. In 1953 Dwight Eisenhower put forward a new strategy, which focused more on nuclear deterrence.

The new strategy came to be known as "massive retaliation" and would have involved extensive use of nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union and eastern Europe if their forces had broken through NATO’s conventional defenses in central Europe.

Nuclear crises over Berlin and Cuba in the late 1950s and early 1960s suggested a need for a more gradual strategy than massive retaliation. President John F. Kennedy endorsed a strategy of "flexible response" in 1961–63, which favored deploying more conventional forces in central and northern Europe from both the United States and the other NATO members.

Disagreement over this new strategy led France to withdraw from NATO’s integrated military command structure in 1967. NATO adopted a new doctrine in December 1967, which endorsed a flexible conventional and nuclear response to Soviet aggression. At the same time, the NAC adopted a new grand strategy favoring stable and peaceful relations with the Warsaw Pact countries.

NATO was further challenged in the mid-1970s when the Soviet Union deployed large numbers of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe that were capable of striking all of the European NATO allies.

In response the members agreed to deploy Pershing II and cruise missiles in West Germany, the United Kingdom, the Low Countries, and Italy. However, a more cordial relationship between the alliance and the Warsaw Pact during the 1980s led to the dismantling of these intermediate weapons at the end of that decade.

After the end of the cold war, NATO retained several important formal and informal functions. First, it serves as a permanent and institutionalized link between the United States and an ever-growing number of European allies. In addition, it prevents the renationalization of European defense policies.

Moreover, NATO allows an institutionalized relationship with Russia and several of the former Warsaw Pact countries that have yet to join the alliance. Finally, it serves peacekeeping and stability functions in Europe and Asia.

NATO invoked article 5 of the Washington Treaty for the first time following the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States. Many NATO countries participated in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Jaafar Numeiri

Jaafar Numeiri was born in January 1930 in Omdurman, the Sudan. In 1952 Numeiri graduated from the Sudan Military College, and in 1966 he graduated from the U.S. Army Command College in Texas. Influenced by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Free Officers Movement in Egypt, Numeiri joined a group of military officers sympathetic to pan-Arab, socialist ideas.

In 1969 Numeiri, with the help of four other officers, orchestrated a coup to overthrow the Sudanese government. He then became the new prime minister and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Sudan.

In July 1971 Sudanese communists staged a coup, and Numeiri was imprisoned. Shortly after his incarceration, Numeiri escaped and rallied loyal forces to put down the revolt and brutally crush the communists.

Numeiri quickly moved to strengthen his base of political support by changing domestic and foreign policies. In the 1971 referendum on the presidency, Numeiri received a 98.6 percent affirmative vote and was sworn in for a six-year term as president.

Spurred by Numeiri’s view of Arab socialism, in 1969 the Sudan agreed in the Tripoli Charter to coordinate foreign policies with Libya and Egypt. This union, which developed into a federation of Arab Republics, was extremely short-lived and was never really implemented.

Numeiri inherited the problem of civil war in the southern Sudan, which had begun in 1955, even before Sudanese independence. A positive step toward resolving the war was taken in 1972 with the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement. A cease-fire was declared in the south, and autonomy was granted to the non-Muslim southern region of the Sudan.

In an effort to bolster support for his regime, Numeiri imposed sharia, Islamic law, over all of the Sudan in 1983. He also unilaterally decreed the division of the south into three regions corresponding to the old provinces; these decisions led to the resumption of the civil war.

The mounting economic crisis led to urban riots, and spreading famines in rural areas marked the final phase of the Numeiri era. In April 1985, while Numeiri was out of the country on official business, the military launched a successful coup against his regime.

Until 1999, when he was allowed to return to the Sudan, Numeiri remained in exile in Egypt while the Sudan continued to suffer through civil war, drought, famines, and mounting political repression from Islamist forces.

Canada Nunavut Territory

As early as 1963, some natives of Canada’s Northwest Territories began agitating for greater autonomy within a nation where the vast majority live within 200 miles of the U.S. border. In particular the eastern Inuit (formerly called Eskimos) sought to control more aspects of their Arctic lives above the tree line.

Not until 1999 was Nunavut ("our land" in the Inuktitut language) separated from other northern territories by an act of Parliament. On April 1, 1999, the Territory of Nunavut was born with Iqaluit, a city of 6,000, as its capital.

Canada’s creation of Nunavut was a dramatic example of the growing awareness of indigenous rights in several nations. As in the United States, where Native Americans began rallying for recognition and respect, creating the American Indian Movement, aboriginal groups in Australia and Canada’s 630 officially recognized "First Nations" likewise began demanding greater self-determination. In 1973 after a long period of refusing to abide by most treaty rights, Canada changed course and signed six major treaties, including Nunavut’s.

Straddling the Arctic Circle, and including Ellesmere and Baffin islands and Cape Dorset—a center of Inuit indigenous art—Nunavut has a population of 29,500, 80 percent of it Inuit, in 26 settlements spread across 770,000 square miles, a fifth of Canada’s total land mass.

Most of this vast territory is inaccessible by road or rail; everything arrives, expensively, by air. The government of Nunavut, whose first premier was lawyer Paul Okalik, oversees an annual budget of about $500 million (U.S.), more than $18,000 per resident. About 84 percent comes from the federal government in Ottawa.

Prior to the 1950s most Inuit were still leading traditional lives based on hunting and fishing. The cold war changed that. In an agreement with Canada, the United States built the Distant Early Warning, or DEW, Line, a system of radar installations designed to detect Soviet invasion across the North Pole.

Although the DEW Line was useless against nuclear submarines or intercontinental ballistic missiles, it remained in place for 30 years. In 1985 Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney and U.S. president Ronald Reagan signed a new defense agreement. Abandoned DEW Line installations littered the Arctic landscape, in some cases leaching PCBs and industrial solvents into the ground.

Around the same time as the DEW Line’s installation, Canada’s government began to move Inuit families into permanent settlements where they were offered health care, education, and other services, but at a price. Their new lifestyle pushed many Inuit communities from subsistence hunting to fur trapping for the cash needed to buy newly available "southern" goods.

Reliable sources of income remain scarce in Nunavut, although mining, fisheries, tourism, and cultural products are being aggressively explored. The Internet plays a significant role, allowing Nunavut’s widely separated citizens to communicate with each other and the world via expensive satellite hookups that leaders hope to replace with fiber-optic installations.

The emergence of global warming patterns in the Arctic poses both threats and opportunities. Some believe that the storied Northwest Passage, now frozen most of the year, will soon be navigable in summer, cutting almost 5,000 miles from a sea voyage between Europe and Asia.

Nunavut’s government has discussed building a deepwater port and a 185-mile all-season road. On the other hand, climate change would likely further endanger Inuit ecology and traditions of self-sufficiency.

Julius Nyerere

Julius Nyerere
Julius Nyerere

Julius Kambarage Nyerere, born in 1922, attended a mission school in Tanganyika, Makerere University College in Tanganyika, and the University of Edinburgh. He returned to teach at a Roman Catholic school near Dar es Salaam and was known as Mwalimu, or teacher.

In 1954 he organized the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) and was elected to the legislature as Tanganyika prepared for full independence in 1961. Nyerere was elected as the first prime minister of the newly independent state and became President of the Republic in 1962. When Tanganyika and Zanzibar unified as Tanzania, Nyerere became the nation’s first president in 1964.

In the 1967 Arusha Declaration, Nyerere instituted a state program of ujamaa (familyhood) based on collective sharing, traditional African values of the family, and collectivization of farms.

Ujamaa, a form of African socialism, was supported by the People’s Republic of China, but in the global economic system, Nyerere’s ujamaa failed to bring economic growth, and in 1976 he was forced to admit defeat and end the program.

Nyerere was an effective spokesperson in the campaign to end the apartheid system in South Africa and was also one of the founders of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

He hosted the African National Congress and Pan-African Congress, as well as other African nationalist movements that struggled against western imperial forces in Mozambique and Rhodesia. He was also a sharp critic of African dictatorships and publicly condemned Idi Amin’s dictatorship in Uganda.

In the first contemporary military intervention by an African state against other, under Nyerere’s leadership, the Tanzania military attacked Amin and forced him out of power.

Refusing to run for reelection, Nyerere retired voluntarily in 1985. He was succeeded by Ali Hassan Mwinyi and served as a sort of elder statesman in Africa until his death in 1999.


One of the goals of Baron Pierre de Coubertin—founder of the modern Olympic Games and organizer of the first modern games in 1896—was to encourage international understanding through sports, and help to create a more peaceful world.

But after 50 years and two world wars—the bloodiest and most violent wars the world had yet seen—the Olympic dream of de Coubertin seemed very distant indeed. Too often the competition between nations would overshadow the competition of the athletes, and occasionally even the athletes themselves would be the center of controversy.

In fact the Olympic Games found themselves, in 1948, in the middle of the geopolitics of the cold war. The world found itself poised on the brink of nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, and it seemed the world needed the Olympic Games and de Coubertin’s vision of peace now more than ever. Often, however, the Games would be just another proxy in the ideological battle between liberal democracy and communism.

One of the most famous incidents of the 1956 Melbourne Games was the water polo match between the Soviet Union and Hungary. This match followed the Soviet quashing of the Hungarian uprising; because of political tension between the countries, the match was contested with such intensity that blood was seen in the swimming pool.

But in addition to political theater, the games also provided many moments of genuine human drama, where athletes strove to best one another under daunting pressure, after years of sacrifice and training.

For the 1960 Summer Games, held at Rome, the games were broadcast live on television throughout Europe. Highlights of the games were Cassius Clay’s (Muhammad Ali) gold medal in boxing, and Abebe Bikila’s barefoot gold medal–winning performance in the marathon.

The 1968 Winter Olympics were held at Grenoble, France, with many events spread around the region. The French skier Jean-Claude Killy, aged 24, won all three Alpine skiing gold medals. The 1968 Summer Games were held at Mexico City; the high altitude brought athletes in as much as a month early to acclimitize.

Bob Beamon broke the world long jump record at the games; his record stood until 1991. The 1972 Summer Olympics were held at Munich, Germany, where U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz won seven gold medals and the Soviet Union’s gymnast Olga Korbut won three gold medals.

These games also featured the controversial results of men’s basketball in which the American team believed that it had been cheated out of the gold medal. The games are best remembered, however, for the attack by Palestinian terrorists on the Israeli team, which resulted in the death of 17 people.

At the 1976 Olympics held at Montreal, Canada, extra security was introduced. These games featured a boycott by African nations that protested the presence of New Zealand. The cause was a match between a New Zealand rugby team and a team from South Africa. This was in violation of a Commonwealth boycott of South Africa.

The major stories of the games were Lase Viren winning both the 5,000 m and the 10,000 m again, and the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, aged 14, winning gold medals with the first-ever perfect score in Olympic gymnastic competition.

At the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, artificial snow was used, and the U.S. speed skater Eric Heiden won five gold medals. This also marked the presence of the first Chinese Olympic team since 1948 (prior to the Communists taking over).

For the United States, these games will always be remembered for the "Miracle on Ice", the victory of the American ice hockey team over the superior Soviet squad; for many, the American victory was seen as a win over communism.

The 1980 Summer Games were held at Moscow, USSR, with 100,000 people at the opening ceremony. However, the United States led a boycott over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in the previous year.

The games were best remembered for the rivalry between British runners Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett; each won one gold medal. The 1984 Summer Games were held at Los Angeles. The Soviet Union and its close allies organized a boycott in retaliation for the U.S.-led one four years earlier.

The best-remembered events of these games included the 200 m record set by U.S. runner Carl Lewis, who also won the 100 m, the long jump and the sprint relay, matching the feats of Jesse Owens in 1936; and also another U.S. runner Mary Decker falling over in the women’s 3,000 m race and blaming the British/South African runner Zola Budd.

The Los Angeles Olympics was also the first summer games to which China sent a team since 1948. There was also some international concern over the high level of advertising and commercial endorsements during the games.

At the 1988 Summer Games held at Seoul, South Korea, there were no major boycotts or security problems in spite of worries about North Korea’s hostility to the games. In the track events, Florence Griffith-Joyner won three gold medals for sprinting, and Kristin Otto of East German won six gold medals.

The Seoul Olympic Games also saw Ben Johnson, a Canadian sprinter, winning the 100 m race in world record time only to be stripped of his gold medal three days later after he failed a drug test.

The 1992 Summer Olympic Games, held in Barcelona, Spain, saw the athletes of the former Soviet Union contesting as a single team for the last time, the return of South Africa, and also a team sent by the reunited Germany. In 1994 the Olympic Winter Games were held, this time at Lillehammer, Norway, beginning a different timetable for the Winter Olympics.

At the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996, the centenary games, a bomb killed two people in the Centennial Olympic Park, but fears of international terrorists proved unfounded with a local man arrested for the bombing. At the Nagano Winter Olympics held in 1998, curling, women’s ice hockey, and snow boarding were all introduced as new Olympic sports.

The Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 saw the summer games return to the Southern Hemisphere for the first time since 1956. The new events introduced included the triathlon and tae kwon do. The public cheered the presence of the team from East Timor at the Opening Ceremony, and also the North Korean and South Korean athletes who marched together.

The highlight was Australian Aboriginal runner Cathy Freeman winning the women’s 100 m race in front of a home crowd. It saw the U.S. team win 40 gold medals, 24 silver medals, and 33 bronze medals; Australia’s team won 16 gold medals, 25 silver medals, and 17 bronze medals.

The 2002 Winter Olympic Games were held at Salt Lake City, Utah. The choice of Salt Lake City saw accusations of corruption and bribery that had first occurred following Atlanta being awarded the Olympics in 1989.

A number of members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were found to have received bribes in exchange for their votes, with files held in Salt Lake City revealing demands for and expectations of bribes by IOC delegates being made public.

In a similar story, during the pairs figure skating competition, a judge was accused of collusion in awarding the gold medal to the Russian pair over the Canadian skaters; the situation was resolved when both figure skating pairs were awarded the gold.

In 2004 the Summer Olympic Games were held at Athens, Greece, the site of the first of the modern Olympic Games held in 1896. These games witnessed several scandals, the majority of them involving performance enhancing drugs. At least 20 violations were noted, the most of any Olympic Games.

The issue of athletes taking drugs to gain an edge over rivals has become one of the dominant concerns of the games in the 21st century. In addition, the International Olympic Committee must also deal with the issue of letting professional athletes into a competition that was originally designed just for amateurs.

Some critics contend that allowing professional athletes will give developed nations an unfair advantage over underdeveloped nations, while others contend that the records set at the Olympics will mean little unless the best athletes are allowed to compete. Despite these challenges—and the ever-present fear of terrorist attacks—the Athens Games saw a record 202 nations participate with over 11,000 athletes.

The Olympic Games have proved to be a tempting avenue for nations to express a political point of view, or in more drastic fashion, commit violence in the name of one cause or another.

Despite the intrusion of politics, it is perhaps a testament to de Coubertin’s dream that athletes the world over still strive together in peaceful competition along the ideals expressed in the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

Organization of American States (OAS)

The Organization of American States (OAS) was founded on April 30, 1948, in Bogotá, Colombia, by 21 member states. Successor organization to the Pan American Union (1889–1947) and retooled to correspond to the changed security environment of the post–World War II era, the OAS was founded as a regional agency of the United Nations.

Its purposes, according to its official charter, are "to strengthen the peace and security of the continent; to promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the principle of non-intervention; to seek the solution of political, juridical, and economic problems... ; [and] to eradicate extreme poverty", among others. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., since its founding, in 2007 the OAS counted 35 member states, with Cuba suspended from participation since 1962, making 34 active member states.

Mirroring the organizational structures of the United Nations, the OAS is governed by a General Assembly and Permanent Council and led by a secretary-general elected every five years.

It has numerous affiliated organizations, organs, and entities, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, f. 1959); the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD, f. 1968); Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE, f. 1999); and many others.

Four "Protocols" introduced major revisions to the original OAS Bogotá Charter: the Protocols of Buenos Aires (1967), Cartagena de Indias (1985), Washington (1992), and Managua (1993). In 1994 the OAS organized the first Summit of the Americas, an event henceforth held every few years.

Since its founding, the OAS has been dominated by the United States. During the the cold war era, its overriding concern was limiting Soviet and communist influence in the Western Hemisphere.

Because Marxist, communist, and socialist doctrines proved popular in many parts of Latin America in the postwar era, OAS member states could pursue one of three options: openly defy the United States and adopt a socialist or Marxist-oriented government; ally with the United States in its anticommunist policies; or pursue a "third way" by aligning with neither the Soviet nor the U.S. bloc.

In a handful of instances, OAS member states openly defied the United States, such as in Guatemala (1944–54), Bolivia (1952–64), Cuba (1961– ), Chile (1970–73), Nicaragua (1979–90), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), and Venezuela (1999– ).

In these and other cases, the United States violated the OAS charter regarding nonintervention, which stipulated that "No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State" (Chapter IV, Article 19). More often, OAS member states cooperated with U.S. anticommunist efforts or sought to pursue a nonaligned stance in international affairs.

The United States most commonly interpreted the latter as alignment with international communism and therefore a direct threat to its national security. In the post–cold war era, the OAS has exerted a greater degree of autonomy from U.S. domination.

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was established in 1960. Its first meeting was held in 1961, and, beginning in 1965, it was headquartered in Vienna. The charter members included Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

Abd Allah al-Tariki, the Saudi director of petroleum affairs, played a leading role in the organization’s inception. OPEC membership was later expanded to include Libya, Algeria, Indonesia, Qatar, Nigeria, UAR, Gabon, and Ecuador.

In 1968 the major Arab oil-producing nations formed OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries). OPEC members met on a regular basis to set quotas for production; however, the organization lacked the mechanism to enforce the quotas, which were frequently ignored or openly flouted by individual producing nations.

Nations with large populations such as Iran, Algeria, and Nigeria tended to push for price increases. Nations with small populations and lesser economic domestic demands preferred stable prices. Because of their production capacity and huge reserves, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were able to increase production to prevent price increases or to keep prices low.

In the 1980s Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves contained over 168 billion barrels, Kuwait had over 66 billion barrels, and Iraq had 43 billion barrels, as compared to 27.3 billion barrels in the United States. By the 1980s the United States was also importing over half its oil, as compared to only 25 percent in the early 1970s.

In 1970 the new revolutionary government in Libya under Muammar Qaddafi forced production cuts to secure higher royalties. The petroleum companies—dominated by the so-called seven sisters, Western-owned corporations—bitterly opposed such pressure tactics, but because of ever-increasing demands they ultimately agreed to Libyan terms. The rest of the oil-producing nations soon followed suit and secured similar concessions. The price of oil then rose from $2 to $3 per barrel and then to $5 per barrel.

During the peak of the oil boom in the 1970s Sheik Ahmad Zaki Yamani, secretary-general of OPEC from 1968 to 1969, served as the Saudi Arabian minister of petroleum. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War King Faysal in Saudi Arabia was persuaded to use oil as a weapon, and cuts in supplies to those nations supporting Israel were announced.

However, Faysal was a staunch anticommunist, and, when the United States and Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat argued that the oil boycott could increase the threat of communism in the Arab and Muslim world, King Faysal effectively ended the boycott by withdrawing Saudi support in 1974. In 1986, when Yamani supported raising oil prices, King Fahd removed him from office.

With its huge reserves Saudi Arabia, and, to a lesser extent, Kuwait, could force price modifications by simply increasing production. By 1996 Saudi Arabia had become the world’s largest petroleum exporter. After the Iran-Iraq War Kuwait began to flood the market, exceeding its quota and driving down prices.

The lower prices hurt Iraq at the very time that it was desperately trying to increase revenues to rebuild its economy; this was a contributing factor in the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the resulting First Gulf War. Depressed prices, largely caused by high production by the Arab Gulf states and Saudi Arabia, also contributed to Ecuador’s withdrawal from OPEC in 1992.

Owing to increased demand by burgeoning Indian and Chinese economies and ongoing wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, the price of oil reached $60 per barrel in 2006 and prices continued to rise.

High prices resulted in huge profits for Western oil companies as well as for the oil-producing nations. In one quarter of 2006 Exxon-Mobil, the world’s largest petroleum corporation, posted profits of over $7 billion.

Although governments talked about cost control measures, alternative fuel sources, and conservation, few practical programs were adopted either in the West or in Asia. Thus it remained certain that petroleum would continue to be the world’s primary energy source for the foreseeable future.

Pakistan People's Party

Flag of Pakistan People's Party
Flag of Pakistan People's Party

The Pakistan People’s Party was founded by Berkeley and Oxford-educated politician and lawyer Zulfikar Bhutto. During the presidency of General Ayub Khan, Bhutto served as a cabinet member and eventually as foreign minister.

Ayub went to war with India over Kashmir in 1965, and eventually, with the intervention of the Soviet Union, signed the Tashkent Agreement, which restored prewar boundaries and diplomatic relations between the two countries. Bhutto opposed Ayub’s signing of the Tashkent Agreement, resigned his post, and formed the Pakistan People’s Party in 1967.

The People’s Party championed the causes of socialism and democracy and denounced the Ayub regime as a dictatorship. Bhutto’s countrywide campaign against Ayub also drew support from businessmen, small factory owners, students, and rural dwellers.

Under the pressure of mounting public unrest, Ayub resigned in 1969 and handed over power to General Yahya Khan. When elections were held in 1970, the People’s Party captured a majority of votes in West Pakistan, whereas a clear majority was won in East Pakistan by the Awami League of Sheik Mujibur Rahman.

While the Awami League promoted greater autonomy for East Pakistan, the People’s Party argued for a strong centralized government. Differences between the two parties, and General Yahya’s inability to play a neutral role in the conflict, led to civil war. In 1971 East Pakistan seceded to become Bangladesh, and the People’s Party formed a government in Pakistan.

In power, the People’s Party stood for the nationalization of industry and education and for land reform. At the same time, Bhutto drafted the country’s fourth constitution, according to which he gave himself the title of prime minister, reduced the president to a figurehead, and granted himself powers that were as broad as those held by the military dictator whom he had opposed.

Factionalism within the People’s Party, accusations of preferential politics, a tribal uprising in Baluchistan over the exploitation of local resources such as natural gas, and underrepresentation of Baluchis in the structures of the state undermined Bhutto’s government.

The deaths of thousands in the uprising in Baluchistan, oppressive measures taken by Bhutto against political opponents, and accusations of having rigged the elections of 1977 led to a military coup by the army chief of staff General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

Bhutto was tried for orchestrating the murder of a political opponent, found guilty, and hanged on April 4, 1979. The leadership of the People’s Party was assumed by his daughter, Benazir Bhutto.

After General Zia-ul-Haq was killed in a plane crash, rumoured to be sabotage, the People’s Party came to power under Benazir Bhutto in the elections of 1988. However, her government was short-lived, she was arrested, and her government dissolved by Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the president at the time.

The People’s Party next came to power in 1993, but the government was again short-lived; violence between ethnic and linguistic groups erupted frequently in Karachi, the government lost control of the urban center, and a power struggle between Benazir Bhutto and her brother Mir Murtaza Bhutto led to divisions within the party. In 1996, during his sister’s tenure as prime minister, Murtaza Bhutto was shot dead outside his residence in a police encounter.

Opposition leaders accused the People’s Party of state terrorism against its political opponents, and the government was dismissed in 1996 again under charges of mismanagement and corruption. Benazir Bhutto continued to head the party in exile and upon her return to Pakistan in 2007. After her assassination on December 27, her husband and 19-year-old son were appointed party co-chairmen.