Historic Documents of 1990


Edited by: CQ Press

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    Historic Documents of 1990 carries through the nineteenth year the project Congressional Quarterly began with Historic Documents of 1972. The purpose of this continuing series is to give students, librarians, journalists, scholars, and others convenient access to documents of basic importance in the broad range of world affairs.

    Each document is preceded by an introduction that provides background information and, when relevant, an account of continuing developments during the year. We believe that these introductions will become increasingly useful as memories of current times fade in the future.

    The year 1990 was filled with dramatic events worldwide. Americans may remember it as the year of the Gulf crisis leading to war with Iraq. For Germans it was the year of unification, bringing East and West Germany into a single nation. In Britain 1990 marked the end of Margaret Thatcher's decade as prime minister.

    Soviet cooperation in the United Nations enabled the United States to win Security Council approval of a dozen resolutions condemning Iraq's armed seizure of Kuwait and to assemble a coalition of military and economic forces to punish Saddam Hussein. But as economic and political problems intensified inside the Soviet Union, recent reforms were cast in jeopardy and Mikhail S. Gorbachev appeared beholden to a conservative hierarchy he had previously managed to circumvent. Foreign Affairs magazine observed that “the shape of the post-Cold War order was far more uncertain at the end of the year than at the beginning.”

    Africa's last colony, Namibia, declared its independence in ceremonies attended by Prime Minister F. W. de Klerk of South Africa, whose country had long controlled it in defiance of the United Nations. In South Africa itself, more racial barriers fell at de Klerk's urging. To the joyous acclaim of black South Africans, Nelson R. Mandela left prison—a free man for the first time in twenty-seven years—and resumed his leadership of a fragmented anti-apartheid movement. He later made a triumphal tour of the United States.

    In Latin America, dictatorships on the political left (Nicaragua) and right (Chile) peacefully handed over control to democratically elected presidents. Gen. Augusto Pinochet surrendered power in Chile after nearly two decades of military rule, and in Nicaragua a decade of Marxist rule ended with the election and inauguration of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro over Sandinista incumbent Daniel Ortega.

    At home, the nation conducted its decennial census and counted fewer than 250 million people, slightly below official estimates, prompting cries of an “undercount” in the big cities. The economy entered a recession in all but official designation. Tax revenues shrank but the costs of closing down and bailing out bankrupt savings institutions moved steadily upward. In the closing days of the 101st Congress, President George Bush and the Democratic leadership ended a protracted budget disagreement. Voters elected a new Congress, largely unchanged from the old one, with Democratic majorities in both houses.

    Junk-bond king Michael R. Milken, who personified the Wall Street boom of the 1980s, was sent to prison. But a prison sentence imposed on Iran-contra figure Oliver L. North was removed by a federal appeals court. Abortion foes continued to mount vigorous campaigns in state legislatures, but the governors of Idaho and Louisiana—who both professed to oppose abortion—vetoed restrictive laws.

    Such topics of national and international significance are presented in texts of official statements, Supreme Court decisions, reports, presidential news conferences, speeches, and special studies. In our judgment, the documents chosen for this volume will be of lasting interest. Where space limitations prevent reproduction of a full text, excerpts provide essential details.

    HoytGimlin, Editor Washington, D.C., February 1991

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