The North American Free Trade Agreement comes into effect


Updated:
Original:
Year
1994
Month Day
January 01

On January 1, 1994, one of the largest and most significant trade pacts in world history comes into effect. The North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico removed most of the trade barriers between the three countries, but it has been controversial in all three since its inception.

Ronald Reagan was the first U.S. president to propose a trilateral free trade agreement between the nations of North America. His successor, George H.W. Bush, opened negotiations with Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, which Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney later joined. The goal was to do away with most tariffs and barriers to the movement of people and products across the three countries’ borders. The debate over ratification of the treaty was heated in all three countries, with critics warning that it would have adverse affects on the ability of workers to organize and, as a result, depress wages. There were also environmental concerns, which were addressed by a side deal. All three nations ratified NAFTA in the end, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law on December 8, 1993. it took effect on New Year’s Day 1994.

The most immediate of all effects of NAFTA was a guerilla uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas. NAFTA had forced the Mexican government to remove an article from its constitution that protected communal indigenous lands from privatization, viewing it as an intolerable barrier to investment. Rather than assent to the potential selling-off of their lands, the mostly-indigenous Zapatista Army of National Liberation rose up and occupied roughly half of Chiapas overnight, just as the treaty came into effect. The standoff with the Mexican government and de facto rule of the rebels continues to this day.

Since 1994, NAFTA has greatly increased the volume of trade between the three countries. Other effects are disputed, although many credit it with boosting industry in Mexico and small businesses in the United States, while critics often argue that it has hurt Mexican farmers and cost America jobs. In 2016, both Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who voted against ratification, made their criticism of NAFTA a major part of their campaigns.

Once in office, Trump forced a re-negotiation of NAFTA. The new arrangement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, is somewhat more protectionist and kinder to American industries, most notably pharmaceutical companies, but more or less continues NAFTA’s legacy of free trade. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve the USMC trade agreement in December 2019. 

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Russian forces enter Chechnya


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Original:
Year
1994
Month Day
December 11

In the largest Russian military offensive since the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks pour into the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya. Encountering only light resistance, Russian forces had by evening pushed to the outskirts of the Chechen capital of Grozny, where several thousand Chechen volunteers vowed a bitter fight against the Russians.

With the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Chechnya, like many of the other republics encompassed by the former Soviet Union, declared its independence. However, unlike Georgia, the Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and the other former Soviet states, Chechnya held only the barest autonomy under Soviet rule and was not considered one of the 15 official Soviet republics. Instead, Chechnya is regarded as one of many republics within the Russian Federation. Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who permitted the dissolution of the Soviet Union, would not tolerate the secession of a state within territorial Russia.

About the size of Connecticut and located in southeastern Russia on the Caspian Sea, Chechnya was conquered by the Russians in the 1850s as the Russian empire pushed south toward the Middle East. Its people are largely Muslim and fiercely independent, and the region has been a constant irritant to its Russian and Soviet rulers.

In August 1991, Dzhozkhar Dudayev, a Chechen politician and former Soviet air force general, toppled Chechnya’s local communist government and established an anti-Russian autocratic state. President Yeltsin feared the secession of Chechnya would prompt a domino effect of independence movements within the vast Russian Federation. He also hoped to recover Chechnya’s valuable oil resources. After ineffective attempts at funding Chechen opposition groups, a Russian invasion began on December 11, 1994.

After the initial gains of the Russian army, the Chechen rebels demonstrated a fierce resistance in Grozny, and thousands of Russian troops died and many more Chechen civilians were killed during almost two years of heavy fighting. In August 1996, Grozny was retaken by the Chechen rebels after a year of Russian occupation, and a cease-fire was declared. In 1997, the last humiliated Russian troops left Chechnya. Despite a peace agreement that left Chechnya a de facto independent state, Chechnya remained officially part of Russia.

In 1999, Yeltsin’s government ordered a second invasion of Chechnya after bombings in Moscow and other cities were linked to Chechen militants. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Yeltsin’s handpicked successor as Russian leader, said of the Chechen terrorists, “we will rub them out, even in the toilet.” In 2000, President Putin escalated Russian military involvement in Chechnya after terrorist bombings in Russian cities continued. In this second round of post-Soviet fighting in Chechnya, the Russian army has been accused of many atrocities in its efforts to suppress Chechen militancy. A peace agreement remains elusive.

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First NATO Military Action


Year
1994
Month Day
February 28

In the first military action in the 45-year history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), U.S. fighter planes shoot down four Serbian warplanes engaged in a bombing mission in violation of Bosnia’s no-fly zone.

The United States, 10 European countries, and Canada founded NATO in 1949 as a safeguard against Soviet aggression. With the end of the Cold War, NATO members approved the use of its military forces for peacekeeping missions in countries outside the alliance and in 1994 agreed to enforce U.N. resolutions enacted to bring about an end to the bloody conflict in the former Yugoslavia. In 1994 and 1995, NATO planes enforced the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina and struck at Bosnian Serb military positions and airfields on a number of occasions.

On December 20, 1995, NATO began the mass deployment of 60,000 troops to enforce the Dayton peace accords, signed in Paris by the leaders of the former Yugoslavia on December 14. The NATO troops took over from a U.N. peacekeeping force that had failed to end the fighting since its deployment in early 1992, although the U.N. troops had proved crucial in the distribution of humanitarian aid to the impoverished population of Bosnia. The NATO force, with its U.S. support and focused aim of enforcing the Dayton agreement, proved more successful in maintaining the peace in the war-torn region.

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Leading Mexican presidential candidate assassinated


Year
1994
Month Day
March 23

Luis Donaldo Colosio, Mexico’s ruling party’s presidential candidate, is gunned down during a campaign rally in the northern border town of Tijuana.

As a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the political party that held power in Mexico for most of the 20th century, Colosio became the protégé of future Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari and was elected to the Congress and Senate. In 1988, he was the campaign manager of Salinas’ successful presidential campaign and the same year was named PRI party head. In 1992, President Salinas appointed Colosio social development secretary. He became increasingly reform-minded in this capacity; although his promises to reduce Mexico’s widespread poverty failed to stop anti-government guerrilla activity in the state of Chiapas. Salinas designated Colosio his successor in late 1993, making him the PRI candidate and thus the favorite to win the presidential election scheduled for August 1994.

Colosio campaigned as a man of the people and often appeared without the protection of bodyguards. On March 23, 1994, he was assassinated at a campaign rally in Tijuana. Mario Aburto Martinez, a factory worker, was arrested at the scene and later convicted as the sole shooter. During the next few years, however, evidence was uncovered suggesting a conspiracy that may have led all the way up to President Salinas’ office. Colosio had promised to fight Mexico’s rampant political corruption, of which Salinas, who had ties to organized crime in Mexico, was guilty.

In the wake of the assassination, Salinas appointed Ernesto Zedillo the PRI presidential campaign. Zedillo was elected in an election unusually free from fraud, and served as Mexican president until 2000. Salinas spent the late 1990s in exile but returned to Mexico in 2000. His administration has been implicated in other political assassinations, and in 1999 his brother Raul was convicted of ordering and financing the September 1994 murder of Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu, the secretary general of the PRI.

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Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, is inaugurated

Year
1994
Month Day
May 10

In South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is sworn in as the first black president of South Africa. In his inaugural address, Mandela, who spent 27 years of his life as a political prisoner of the South African government, declared that “the time for the healing of the wounds has come.” Two weeks earlier, more than 22 million South Africans had turned out to cast ballots in the country’s first-ever multiracial parliamentary elections. An overwhelming majority chose Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC) party to lead the country.

READ MORE: Nelson Mandela: His Written Legacy

Mandela, born in 1918, was the son of the chief of the Xhosa-speaking Tembu people. Instead of succeeding his father as chief, Mandela went to university and became a lawyer. In 1944, he joined the African National Congress (ANC), a black political organization dedicated to winning rights for the black majority in white-ruled South Africa. In 1948, the racist National Party came to power, and apartheid–South Africa’s institutionalized system of white supremacy and racial segregation–became official government policy. With the loss of black rights under apartheid, black enrollment in the ANC rapidly grew. Mandela became one of the ANC’s leaders and in 1952 was made deputy national president of the ANC. He organized nonviolent strikes, boycotts, marches, and other acts of civil disobedience.

After the massacre of peaceful black demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, Nelson helped organize a paramilitary branch of the ANC to engage in acts of sabotage against the white minority government. He was tried for and acquitted of treason in 1961 but in 1962 was arrested again for illegally leaving the country. Convicted and sentenced to five years at Robben Island Prison, he was put on trial again in 1963 with seven others on charges of sabotage, treason, and conspiracy. In the celebrated Rivonia Trial, named after the suburb of Johannesburg where ANC weapons were found, Mandela eloquently defended his actions. On June 12, 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

READ MORE: The Harsh Reality of Life Under Apartheid

Mandela spent the first 18 of his 27 years in jail at the brutal Robben Island Prison. He was confined to a small cell without a bed or plumbing and was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He could write and receive a letter once every six months, and once a year he was allowed to meet with a visitor for 30 minutes. However, Mandela’s resolve remained unbroken, and while remaining the symbolic leader of the anti-apartheid movement, he led a movement of civil disobedience at the prison that coerced South African officials into drastically improving conditions on Robben Island. In 1982 he was moved to Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland, and in 1988 to a cottage, where he lived under house arrest.

In 1989, F.W. de Klerk became South African president and set about dismantling apartheid. De Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, suspended executions, and on February 11, 1990, ordered the release of Nelson Mandela. Mandela subsequently led the ANC in its negotiations with the minority government for an end to apartheid and the establishment of a multiracial government. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 26, 1994, the country’s first free elections were won by Mandela and the ANC, and a “national unity” coalition was formed with de Klerk’s National Party and the Zulus’ Inkatha Freedom Party. On May 10, Mandela was inaugurated in a ceremony attended by numerous international dignitaries.

As president, Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights violations under apartheid and introduced numerous initiatives designed to improve the living standards of South Africa’s black population. In 1996, he presided over the enactment of a new South African constitution. Mandela retired from politics in June 1999 at the age of 80. He was succeeded as president by Thabo Mbeki of the ANC, but remained a global advocate for peace and social justice until his death in December 2013.

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South Africa holds first multiracial elections

Year
1994
Month Day
April 27

More than 22 million South Africans turn out to cast ballots in the country’s first multiracial parliamentary elections. An overwhelming majority chose anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela to head a new coalition government that included his African National Congress Party, former President F.W. de Klerk’s National Party, and Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party. In May, Mandela was inaugurated as president, becoming South Africa’s first black head of state.

READ MORE: Nelson Mandela: His Written Legacy

In 1944, Mandela, a lawyer, joined the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa, where he became a leader of Johannesburg’s youth wing of the ANC. In 1952, he became deputy national president of the ANC, advocating nonviolent resistance to apartheid–South Africa’s institutionalized system of white supremacy and racial segregation. However, after the massacre of peaceful black demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, Mandela helped organize a paramilitary branch of the ANC to engage in guerrilla warfare against the white minority government.

In 1961, he was arrested for treason, and although acquitted he was arrested again in 1962 for illegally leaving the country. Convicted and sentenced to five years at Robben Island Prison, he was put on trial again in 1964 on charges of sabotage. In June 1964, he was convicted along with several other ANC leaders and sentenced to life in prison.

Mandela spent the first 18 of his 27 years in jail at the brutal Robben Island Prison. Confined to a small cell without a bed or plumbing, he was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He could write and receive a letter once every six months, and once a year he was allowed to meet with a visitor for 30 minutes. However, Mandela’s resolve remained unbroken, and while remaining the symbolic leader of the anti-apartheid movement, he led a movement of civil disobedience at the prison that coerced South African officials into drastically improving conditions on Robben Island. He was later moved to another location, where he lived under house arrest.

In 1989, F.W. de Klerk became South Africa’s president and set about dismantling apartheid. De Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, suspended executions, and in February 1990 ordered the release of Nelson Mandela.

Mandela subsequently led the ANC in its negotiations with the minority government for an end to apartheid and the establishment of a multiracial government. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. One year later, the ANC won an electoral majority in the country’s first free elections, and Mandela was elected South Africa’s president, a position he held until 1999.

READ MORE: The Harsh Reality of Life Under Apartheid 

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Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn returns to Russia after exile

Year
1994
Month Day
May 27

Two decades after being expelled from the USSR, Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn returns to Russia in an emotional homecoming.

In 1945, Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to eight years of hard labor for criticizing Stalin in a letter to a friend. His prison experiences formed the basis for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, his famous first novel. In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature and began work on The Gulag Archipelago, his vast history of the Soviet totalitarian system, from Lenin’s ascension to the official Soviet denunciation of Stalin. Foreign publication of this work led to his expulsion from the USSR in 1974, and he settled in the United States. Soviet officials dropped charges of treason against Solzhenitsyn in 1990. One year later, the Soviet Union collapsed and in 1994 Solzhenitsyn returned home. There, he continued writing and often publicly criticized the post-Soviet Russian government.

Solzhenitsyn died of heart failure in Moscow on August 3, 2008. He was 89.

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North Korea’s “Great Leader” dies

Year
1994
Month Day
July 08

Kim Il-Sung, the communist dictator of North Korea since 1948, dies of a heart attack at the age of 82.

In the 1930s, Kim fought against the Japanese occupation of Korea and was singled out by Soviet authorities, who sent him to the USSR for military and political training. He became a communist and fought in the Soviet Red Army in World War II. In 1945, Korea was divided into Soviet and American spheres, and in 1948 Kim became the first leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). Hoping to reunify Korea by force, Kim launched an invasion of South Korea in June 1950, thereby igniting the Korean War, which ended in a stalemate in 1953.

During the next four decades, Kim led his country into a deep isolation from even its former communist allies, and relations with South Korea remained tense. Repressive rule and a personality cult that celebrated him as the “Great Leader” kept him in power until his death in 1994. He was succeeded as president by his son, Kim Jong-Il, whose reign was equally repressive and isolating. Kim Jong-Il, known as “Dear Leader,” served until his death in 2011. Kim Jong-Il’s son Kim Jong-Un succeeded him, and serves to this day. 

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Pennsylvania man buried with his beloved Corvette

Year
1994
Month Day
May 25

On May 25, 1994, the ashes of 71-year-old George Swanson are buried (according to Swanson’s request) in the driver’s seat of his 1984 white Corvette in Hempfield County, Pennsylvania.

Swanson, a beer distributor and former U.S. Army sergeant during World War II, died the previous March 31 at the age of 71. He had reportedly been planning his automobile burial for some time, buying 12 burial plots at Brush Creek Cemetery, located 25 miles east of Pittsburgh, in order to ensure that his beloved Corvette would fit in his grave with him. After his death, however, the cemetery balked, amid concerns of vandalism and worries that other clients would be offended by the outlandish nature of the burial. They finally relented after weeks of negotiations, but insisted that the burial be private, and that the car be drained of fluids to protect the environment. “George wanted to go out in style, and, indeed, now he will,” commented Swanson’s lawyer in a report from The Associated Press. “We agree that this is rather elaborate, but really it’s no different than being buried in a diamond-studded or gold coffin.”

According to the AP, Swanson’s widow, Caroline, transported her husband’s ashes to the cemetery on the seat of her own white 1993 Corvette. The ashes were then placed on the driver’s seat of his 10-year-old car, which had only 27,000 miles on the odometer. Inside the car, mourners also placed a lap quilt made by a group of women from Swanson’s church, a love note from his wife and an Engelbert Humperdinck tape in the cassette deck, with the song “Release Me” cued up and ready to play. The license plate read “HI-PAL,” which was Swanson’s go-to greeting when he didn’t remember a name. As 50 mourners looked on, a crane lowered the Corvette into a 7-by-7-by-16-foot hole.   

“George always said he lived a fabulous life, and he went out in a fabulous style,” Caroline Swanson said later. “You have a lot of people saying they want to take it with them. He took it with him.”

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O.J. Simpson leads L.A. police on a low-speed chase

Year
1994
Month Day
June 17

Viewers across the nation are glued to their television screens on June 17, 1994, watching as a fleet of black-and-white police cars pursues a white Ford Bronco along Interstate 405 in Los Angeles, California. Inside the Bronco is Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson, a former professional football player, actor and sports commentator whom police suspected of involvement in the recent murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

READ MORE: O.J. Simpson’s Getaway Car: What Happened to the White Ford Bronco? 

The bodies of Brown Simpson and Goldman were found outside her home in the exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood shortly after midnight on June 13, 1994. Bloodstains matching Simpson’s blood type were found at the crime scene, and the star had become the focus of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) investigation by the morning of June 17. When police arrived to arrest Simpson at the home of his friend and lawyer, Robert Kardashian, they found that Simpson had slipped out the back door with his former college and Buffalo Bills teammate Al Cowlings. The two men had then driven off in Cowlings’ white Ford Bronco.

After a news conference–in which his lawyer, Howard Shapiro, announced that Simpson was distraught and might attempt suicide–the LAPD officially declared the former football star a fugitive. Around 7 p.m. PST, police located the white Bronco by tracing calls made from Simpson’s cellular phone. Simpson was reported to be in the back seat of the vehicle, holding a gun to his head. With news helicopters following the slow chase from above and cameras broadcasting the dramatic events live to millions of astonished viewers, vehicles from the LAPD and California Highway Patrol pursued the Bronco for about an hour as it traveled at some 35 miles per hour along I-405. Finally, after about an hour, the Bronco pulled into the driveway of Simpson’s Brentwood home. He emerged from the car close to 9 pm and was immediately arrested and booked on double murder charges.

The trial that followed gripped the nation, inspiring unprecedented media scrutiny along with heated debates about racial discrimination on the part of the police. Though a jury acquitted Simpson of the murder charges in October 1995, a separate civil trial in 1997 found him liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages to the Brown and Goldman families.

READ MORE: O.J. Simpson Murder Case: A Timeline of the ‘Trial of the Century’

In 2007, Simpson ran into legal problems once again when he was arrested for breaking into a Las Vegas hotel room and taking sports memorabilia, which he claimed had been stolen from him, at gunpoint. On October 3, 2008, he was found guilty of 12 charges related to the incident, including armed robbery and kidnapping, and sentenced to 33 years in prison. He was released from prison in October, 2017. 

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