JAKARTA, Indonesia – Former dictator Suharto, an army general who crushed Indonesia’s communist movement and pushed aside the country’s founding father to usher in 32 years of tough rule that saw up to a million political opponents killed, died Sunday. He was 86.
“He has died,” Dr. Christian Johannes told The Associated Press, adding that he died at 1:10 p.m.
Finally toppled by mass street protests in 1998, the U.S. Cold War ally’s departure opened the way for democracy in this predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million people and he withdrew from public life, rarely venturing from his comfortable villa on a leafy lane in the capital.
Suharto had ruled with a totalitarian dominance that saw soldiers stationed in every village, instilling a deep fear of authority across this Southeast Asian nation of some 6,000 inhabited islands that stretch across more than 3,000 miles.
Since being forced from power, he had been in and out of hospitals after strokes caused brain damage and impaired his speech. Blood transfusions and a pacemaker prolonged his life, but he suffered from lung, kidney, liver and heart problems.
Suharto was admitted to a hospital on Jan. 4 and had been in intensive care. Over the past week his physicians had spoken of a recovery, but that had changed dramatically by Sunday, when his condition took a sharp downturn.