In the late 1980s Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced glasnost and perestroika reforms to liberalise communism. Honecker was a candidate member for the secretariat of the Central Committee in 1950; by 1958 he had become a full member of the Politbüro. Gorbachev grew to dislike Honecker and by 1988 was lumping Honecker along with Bulgaria's Todor Zhivkov Czechoslovakia's Gustáv Husák and Romania's Nicolae Ceaușescu as a "Gang of Four"—a group of inflexible hardliners unwilling to make necessary reforms.
He finally settled down with his family in Chile in 1993 and died the following year from liver cancer. Following the definite end of the Cold War Honecker refused all but cosmetic changes and was ousted by the party in late 1989 and removed from power.