Mikhail Gorbachev at the Berlin Wall in May 1998. MICHELINE PELLETIER (SYGMA/CORBIS)
The death of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, this Tuesday at the age of 91 has caused a wave of international commotion for his political courage and his symbolic role as a man who turned contemporary history around. The world bids farewell to the father of perestroika, one of the most decisive leaders of the 20th century, with a resounding tribute. “A statesman who changed the course of history.” This has been described by the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres. “He did more than any other individual to peacefully end the Cold War,” he added in a statement with which he also sent his condolences to the family of the first and last president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as well as to the citizens and to the current Russian government.
“He was a trusted and respected leader. He played a crucial role in putting an end to the Cold War and in bringing down the Iron Curtain”, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has highlighted through social networks. “He opened the way to a free Europe. We will not forget this legacy. Rest in peace”, she continued. Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also dedicated a few words to the former Soviet leader. “I have always admired the courage and integrity he showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion. At a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example for all of us,” he said.
James Baker, who was Secretary of State of the United States between 1989 and 1992, glossed his figure in the following terms: “History will remember Mikhail Gorbachev as a giant who guided his great nation towards democracy. He played a critical role in the peaceful conclusion of the Cold War by his decision not to resort to force to maintain the empire… He is sorely missed by the free world.” The Republican Baker served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, as secretary of the Treasury, and George Bush Sr., as chief of diplomacy.
Few witnesses remain of the special relationship established by Gorbachev and Reagan, his main interlocutor in the United States. “The Reagan Foundation and Institute mourns the loss of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who was once a political adversary of Ronald Reagan, only to become a friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Gorbachev family and the people of Russia,” the institution that watches over Reagan’s legacy said in a statement.
The president of the Popular Party, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, has been the first of the main Spanish political leaders to pronounce on the death of Gorbachev. “Key figure in the politics and history of the second half of the 20th century for his drive to end communism. Peace and freedom will always be in debt”, has indicated the leader of the popular.
Even the current Russian president formally conveyed his condolences on the death of the former president. “Vladimir Putin expresses his deep condolences on the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, will send a telegram of condolences to the family and relatives of the former leader,” spokesman Dmitri Peskov said, according to the TASS news agency.
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In Latin America, the reactions have resounded in Colombia since the news broke. Political leaders from all sectors lamented his death, emphasizing some facet according to his views and interests. “A champion of peace, Mikhail Gorbachev, left. The world needs many more leaders like him.” Former President Juan Manuel Santos, architect of peace with the extinct FARC guerrilla, has written on Twitter. His rival, former right-wing president Álvaro Uribe, focused on freedom, commenting on posting a photo of Gorbachev with former US President Ronald Reagan, “Mikhail Gorbachev, one of his legacies: ‘We have to talk frankly about this. There are people for whom freedom is a nuisance, they don’t feel good about it.”
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