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Timeline: 1981

President Reagan

Ronald Reagan begins his presidency. He emphasizes pride in America and believes it is for the US to teach the world.

Madam Mao

Madam Mao

Jan 8  US Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher is in Algiers representing the Carter administration regarding hostages in Iran.

Jan 10  Hoping to take power before the Ronald Reagan takes office, the rebel force called the FMLN, in El Salvador, begins a military offensive.

Jan 19  The US and Iran sign an agreement in Algiers. Iran is to release the 52 Americans hostages held during the past 14 months. The US is to end trade sanctions and its freeze on Iranian assets.

Jan 20  Ronald Reagan is sworn in as President of the United States. In his inaugural address he promises a "healthy, vigorous, growing economy that provides equal opportunity for all Americans, with no barriers born of bigotry or discrimination."

Jan 21  President Reagan says that the Soviet Union's leaders "have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat ..."

Jan 23  Following international pressure, South Korea's authoritarian regime commutes the death sentence against pro-democracy leader Kim Dae Jung to life imprisonment.

Jan 26  A special court suspends the death sentences against Mao's widow, Jiang Qing, and nine others. They are sentenced to indefinitely long prison terms. Jiang Qing has complained that everything she did was approved by Mao. She protests loudly and while screaming she is removed from the courtroom.

Jan 28  William J. Casey becomes director of CIA.

Jan 31  Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity movement in Poland, wins Saturdays off for Poland's workers.

Feb 3  Secretary of State Alexander Haig describes Cuba as intervening in El Salvador.

Feb 14  In El Salvador, the countrywide rising that the FMLN guerrillas expected with their offensive last month has not materialized. But they have gained in some areas. They launch attacks around the capital, San Salvador. The governments of Mexico and France recognize the FMLN as a "representative political force" in El Salvador and call for a negotiated settlement of the war.

Feb. 18  President Reagan describes his "program for economic recovery" to a Joint Session of Congress. He calls for cuts in spending, a 30 percent cut in taxes over a period of three years, an increase in defense expenditures, and he promises not to cut Social Security.

Feb 23  In Spain, 200 members of the Civil Guard, with a few army allies, invade parliament and take the legislators hostage. King Juan Carlos speaks to the nation on behalf of democracy and the coup ends.

Mar 2  The Reagan administration has been complaining about weapons going from the Soviet Union to El Salvador through Cuba and Nicaragua. He wants to prevent a Communist takeover in El Salvador and is opposed to a negotiated settlement there. His administration is sending 20 more advisors and $25 million more in military aid to El Salvador. He tries to allay public fears and says El Salvador is not going to become another Vietnam.

Mar 6  Preparing to reduce the size and cost of government, President Reagan announces plans to cut 37,000 federal jobs.

Mar 10  In Britain, the Thatcher regime announces an increase in taxes. Margaret Thatcher is aiming to balance Britain's budget. Inflation is running around 16 percent and correcting it is one of her goals. Unemployment, meanwhile, is approaching 7 percent and rising.

Mar 16  In Nicaragua, supporters of the Sandinista regime break up a political rally organized by the Nicaraguan Democratic Movement.

Mar 21  In Alabama, members of the Ku Klux Klan abducts, tortures and kills a black 19-year-old, Michael Donald.

Mar 26  In six cities in Kosovo, students of Albanian descent are rioting. Albanians are a majority if Kosovo and the students want Kosovo independent of Serbia. The Yugoslav police – Serb dominated – are suppressing the demonstrations.

Mar 30  President Reagan is shot in the chest by John Hinckley, Jr. Two police officers and Press Secretary James Brady are also wounded.

Mar 31  In Syria, Jordan is being described as an "artificial entity" created by the colonial powers. One of Syria's state-run newspapers describes Jordan as "the land of Syria, a part of natural Syria." The Jordanian people are described as "always a part of us, and they will always remain so."

Apr 1  Syrians also believe they have a right to Lebanon. Their military was invited there by Lebanon's government in 1976, during Lebanon's civil war, as peacekeepers and to protect Christians, and they are still there, now supporting the PLO, headquartered in Beirut. In eastern Lebanon they are having an artillery exchange with Christian militiamen.

Bobby Sands

Bobby Sands dies in prison

Fr. Stanley Rother

Fr. Stanley Rother

Diana and Charles

Diana and Charles

Apr 11  In the predominantly black community of Brixton, in south London, police are attacked with stones, bricks, iron bars and "petrol bombs." There is looting and buildings destroyed by fire and over 100 autos burned. Police injuries are 279. Injuries to others are counted at 45. Unemployment among Brixton's ethnic minorities is at 25.4 percent. Housing is poor. The crime rate is high and police are disliked.

Apr 24  IBM puts its first personal computer on the market, launching operating systems by Microsoft.

May 5  Bobby Sands, a member of the Irish Republican Army and an elected member of the Irish Parliament, dies in a Northern Ireland prison following his hunger strike and 66 days without food. Prime Minister Thatcher is not moved. She tells the House of Commons: "Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organization did not allow to many of its victims."

May 13  John Paul II is shot and seriously wounded in St. Peter's Square by Turkish assailant Mehmet Ali Agca, who was inspired by a distorted interpretation of the siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in November 1979.

Jun 30  China's Communist Party describes the former leader, the late Mao Zedung, as having made contributions that ''far outweigh'' his mistakes but that his mistakes were monumental.

Jul 3-11  Racial unrest appears again in Britain, in Handsworth, Southall, Toxteth, Moss Side, Leeds, Leicester, Southampton, Halifax, Bedford, Gloucester, Coventry, Bristol and Edinburgh.

Jul 10-21  Israeli aircraft and artillery have been bombarding Palestinian positions in Lebanon in retaliation for PLO attacks against Israel. Israeli bombers destroy the PLO headquarters in Beirut. PLO chief, Yaser Arafat, pledges to fight back against the ''barbarian, inhumanitarian war'' that he says has been started by Israel.

Jul 28  In rural Guatemala, the Reverend Stanley Rother, a 46-year-old Roman Catholic priest from Oklahoma, is shot to death by a paramilitary death squad.

Jul 29  Congress passes Reagan's tax bill. Instead of a 30% tax cut over three years, Reagan accepts 25%. The highest income tax rate (for the more wealthy) is lowered from 70 percent to 50 percent.

Jul 29  In Lady Diana Spencer, Britain's Prince Charles has found a wife who meets royal expectations: She has royal or noble blood, is a Protestant and said to be a virgin. They marry in St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Aug 3  In the US 11,500 air traffic controllers strike for better working conditions, better pay and a 32-hour workweek. It is illegal for them to strike, and President Reagan warns that he will fire those who do not return to work.

Aug 3  The acting archbishop of San Salvador criticizes El Salvador's ruling junta today for being lax in its investigation of the murders of four American women last December.

Aug 5  President Reagan begins firing 11,500 air traffic controllers who are on strike.

Aug 8  In Mexico, Fidel Castro and President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico meet for two days to reaffirm their ties.

Aug 13  President Reagan signs legislation for tax and budget reductions. He believes that reduced taxes will increase revenues by stimulating the economy. Inflation is still high, around 10.8 percent, but a point lower than when Reagan took office.

Aug 19  Since 1973 Libya has claimed the Gulf of Sidra as its territorial waters, stating that to cross into the gulf might produce a military response. The US Navy is conducting exercises off the coast of Libya, recognizing a twelve-mile limit to Libya's territorial waters. Libya's military believes the US Navy has entered its territory. One of its planes fires at a US plane. Two Libyan fighter aircraft are shot down.

Aug 29  Mexico and France recognize El Salvador's FMLN opposition as a ''representative political force.''

Sep 1  The leader of the FMLN, Guillermo Ungo, says that neither his guerrillas nor the US-backed Salvadorian Army are capable of a achieving a military victory in the near future. He proposes a negotiated settlement.

Sep 13  In El Salvador, government forces capture a guerrilla base camp where about 400 rebels had been established.

Sep 17 In the US, inflation is still almost 11 percent. Paul A. Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, tells Congress that cuts in spending is the best way to shrink the budget deficit and to bring down high interest rates. Volcker rejects the suggestion of some Democrats that taxes should be increased. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been flat, around 900.

Sep 18  France abolishes capital punishment.

Sep 20  In the Central America, Belize becomes independent of Britain.

Sep 22  El Salvador's President Duarte, announces that his government has dismissed 600 National Guardsmen and imprisoned 64 others for crimes against Salvadoran civilians.

Oct 3  IRA soldiers imprisoned in Northern Ireland end a seven-month hunger strike in which 10 of them have died. The IRA has gained some support in electoral politics in Ireland. Margaret Thatcher is hated by some IRA members.

Sadat's assassination

Sadat's assassination Sadat's assassination

Oct 5  In Nicaragua, the Sandinista government complains about editorials in La Prensa and threatens to close the newspaper again.

Oct 6  President Sadat is viewing a military parade, celebrating the anniversary of his offensive in 1973 against Israel – still a source of glory for him inside Egypt. Lately, Sadat has been trying to appeal to militant Muslims, while cracking down on secular leftists, but he is still reviled for having recognized Israel. Sadat has no force in front of him for protection. A group called Islamic Jihad, disguised as soldiers, breaks from the parade, rushes to the reviewing stand, firing their weapons at Sadat and kill him. His main offense in their eyes is his trying to Westernize Egypt, thereby destroying its Islamic foundations.

Nov 8  In office a little more than three weeks, Hosni Mabarak speaks to parliament and the Egyptian people he says: "Our eventual goal is to create an equal society, not a society of privileges and class distinctions. Social justice is the first rule for peace and stability in society."

Nov 18  While visiting President Reagan at the White House, the President of Venezuela, Luis Herrera Campins, cautions against military action against Nicaragua and says he is opposed to any outside intervention in Central America.

Nov 20  In the US the National Conference of Catholic Bishops appeals again for an end to all US military assistance to El Salvador and urges the Reagan Administration to maintain economic aid to Nicaragua.

Dec 4  Conflict in Guatemala is described by some as civil war. Religious leaders claim that in Guatemala nearly 11,000 people have been slain this year.

Dec 13  The Communist regime in Poland, led by Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski, knows that it is unpopular. To maintain control, Jaruzelski declares martial law. Solidarity is banned, its leaders to be arrested. Government censorship is imposed. People working in the media and in educational institutions are to be subject to attitudinal tests. More than 2,000 people will lose their jobs. Coal mines are placed under military control and military courts will be established. The six-day work week returns.

Dec 29  President Reagan curtails Soviet trade in reprisal for the creation of martial law in Poland.

Dec 30  Italy's Communist Party, concerned about maintaining what support it has in Italy, distances itself from the Soviet Union, a spokesperson saying that "martial law in Poland means that the Soviet revolution has ceased to be a vital force in the world."

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