The Victorious & The Vanquished

Anti-Slobodan Milosevic poster in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, April 1, 2001 AP

For many world leaders, 2000 dished out hard knocks.

Month by month, political casualties mounted as impeachment, insurrection and disasters took their toll. From Asia to the Andes, from Moscow to the Middle East, scores of world leaders were plagued in 2000 by bad judgment, bad timing or just plain bad luck.

Still, reports CBS News Correspondent Gretchen Carlson, political fortune favored a few, in the form of ballot-box victories, feats of diplomacy, or hard-won domestic achievements.

Among the year's political winners were some canny veterans whose experience stood them in good stead; others were neophytes on the world stage.

Many of them seemed pushed and pulled by the year's events.

Among the stories that made headlines across the globe in the year 2000:
  • Yugoslavia
    The end of a dictatorship brought hope to the war torn republic. Demonstrators demanded new elections, and Slobodan Milosevic lost. True to character, Milosevic didn't go easily. After demanding a run-off against new leader, Vojislav Kostunica, protesters stormed the Parliament. Just one day later, Milosevic's conceded and his 13-year rule was over.

  • Concorde
    Within seconds of taking off in Paris, an Air France Concorde en route to New York burst into flames. The jet nose-dived into a nearby hotel, killing 113 people. Investigators believe a tire blew out, causing a fuel tank to explode. All other supersonic jets were grounded, and the Concorde's spotless safety record was marred.

  • The Kursk
    Just a month later, another high-tech malfunction led to tragedy. The Kursk, a Russian submarine, sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea. 118 sailors were on board, and while many died instantly, a note from one of the sailors revealed that at least 23 initially survived. Russia initially refused foreign help, and by the time international assistance was finally accepted, all of the sailors had died.

  • USS Cole
    A terrorist bombing killed 17 American sailors aboard the USS Cole as it refueled October 12th during a stop in Aden, Yemen. The blast ripped a 40-foot hole in the destroyer's side.

  • Mexican election
    In Mexico, another high profile election changed the rules. In July, Vicente Fox defeated Francisco Labastida, ending the 71-year reign of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. In December, the new President was sworn in.

  • Middle East
    It was not elections in the Middle East, but violence that once again took center stage. From September to December, more than 300 people were killed. Both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met with President Clinton to try and broker peace, but at year's end, Barak had resigned and peace appeared unlikely.

  • Clinton visits Vietnam
    In a yer of both peace and violence, one sign of hope was Mr. Clinton's visit to Vietnam, the first by a president since the Vietnam War.

  • Oil prices
    Crude oil prices soared as OPEC curtailed production, leading to a worldwide outcry over higher fuel costs and prompting the United States to dip into its strategic reserves.

  • Ebola Virus
    An outbreak of the devastating virus, which is deadly 90 percent of the time, killed approximately 150 people in Uganda during 2000. But hope for future victims improved: tests of vaccine treatments on monkeys showed promise in treating the disease.

  • International space station
    A Soyuz rocket carried two Russians and one American to become the first permanent residents of the Alpha space station.
Amid the turbulent events of 2000, world leaders found varied fortunes.

Few fell so far so fast as Israel's Barak, who began the year lauded for his peace overtures toward longtime foe Syria, but ended it trying to quell a bloody Palestinian uprising and stave off a challenge from his political nemesis, Benjamin Netanyahu.

In Britain, Tony Blair saw his suave, savvy image eroded by a fiasco over the Millennium Dome, the money-losing centerpiece of the country's year-2000 celebrations, as well as fuel protests that brought the country to a standstill, and a nationwide train system that went badly off track.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, in office for a year, drew a burst of public anger for his handling of the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster. Many Russians thought the chilly former KGB agent provided shockingly scant comfort to the dead sailors' families.

Peru's Alberto Fujimori, deposed in absentia over a bribery scandal, took shelter in his ancestral homeland, Japan, while protesting his innocence.

Ivory Coast's ex-junta chief, Robert Guei, went into seclusion in his home village after post-election street riots brought him down. He is believed to still have a base of support within the military.

Disgrace haunted some leaders. The reunification of Germany a decade ago was former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's greatest achievement, but that memory was tarnished by a slush-fund scandal dating from his term in office.

And the Philippines' flamboyant President Joseph Estrada ended the year in the impeachment dock. His corruption trial inspired a spate of luridly detailed reports of his gambling, drinking and womanizing.

Honor was accorded a few politicians, chief among them President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea. The former political prisoner won the Nobel Peace Prize for his eforts to promote human rights and reconcile the two Koreas after more than half a century of bitter estrangement.

It proved too soon to write the political obituaries of a few of the world's most durable leaders, who notched up another year in power — and showed they could still tweak the West.

Iraq's Saddam Hussein continued his long-running confrontation with the United Nations, defying weapons inspectors, halting oil exports and exploiting cracks in decade-old sanctions.

Cuba's Fidel Castro reaped a propaganda bonanza from the saga of little Elian Gonzalez, the shipwrecked 6-year-old who was finally returned to his father and his homeland.

Death ended the presidency of Syria's Hafez Assad. His British-educated son Bashar took over, raising hopes of economic and political reform in a country that earned a reputation for backwardness and belligerence during the elder Assad's autocratic rule.

For some leaders, the coming year augured deepening troubles.

Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid, whose 1999 election was hailed as a victory for democracy, is now seen as disappointingly ineffectual.

In Zimbabwe, long-ruling President Robert Mugabe cracked down on reformers who had challenged his hold on power in June elections, and condoned a violent campaign to seize white farms and give them to landless blacks.

For some luckless newcomers, there was no such thing as a political honeymoon.

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, in office only since April, has established himself as one of the country's most unpopular prime ministers.

By contrast, Canada's Prime Minister Jean Chretien got a huge vote of confidence from his compatriots last month, celebrating the biggest victory of a long political career when he guided his Liberal Party to its third consecutive election win.

And Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, in his first full year in office, pushed through a new constitution and won a national referendum to break the power of labor leaders.

Reconciliation was a theme in Nigeria, where last year's election of President Olusegun Obasanjo ended 15 years of military rule. Last month, testifying before a human rights panel, Obasanjo embraced the man whose testimony had put him in jail for three years under the nation's former military ruler.

The waning days of 2000 brought a return of some faces from the past: Ion Iliescu in Romania, and Jean-Bertrande Aristide in Haiti. But neither inspired any great hopes in his hard-pressed people.

  • Roman Foxman

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