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Ecuador-Peru Border Dispute

Peru has not been involved in any significant international conflicts since the end of its border dispute with Ecuador in 1998. Ecuador and Peru have had a disputed border since colonial times. The conflict with Ecuador dated back to the post-independence period. Following independence, Ecuador had been left without access to either the Amazon River or the Río Marañón, the region’s other major waterway, and thus without direct access to the Atlantic Ocean.

The most successful of Peru's early military presidents, General Marshal Ramon Castilla (1845-51, 1854-62), brought some degree of stability and order and a more disciplined military force. Castilla' s force was successful in a brief border conflict with Ecuador and a naval blockade of that country in 1859.

In 1939, Manuel Prado y Ugarteche (1939-45), a Lima banker from a prominent family and son of a former president, was elected president. He was soon confronted with a border conflict with Ecuador that led to a brief war in 1941. In an effort to assert its territorial claims in a region near the Río Marañón in the Amazon Basin, Ecuador’s military occupied the town of Zarumilla along its southwestern border with Peru. The Peruvian army responded and defeated the Ecuadorian army.

The 1941 war with Ecuador was a major success for Peruvian forces. Peru had established the first paratroop unit in the region and used it to good effect; the first combat in the hemisphere involving airborne troops resulted in the capture of Ecuador's Puerto Bolivar July 27, 1941 . By the end of the month, when military actions had ceased, Peru held Ecuador's southernmost province of El Oro and much of the disputed eastern jungle territory that had been part of Ecuador since the 1830s.

After several incidents, in July 1941 a conflict erupted significant proportions between Peru and Ecuador, which culminated in the occupation of part of Ecuadorian territory by Peruvian forces and the signing of the Rio Protocol which set the borders between the two countries. Military actions were carried out both on the coast and in the Amazon, and in both theaters will share a stake naval forces.

In the Pacific, the main elements of the squadron, composed of cruisers Admiral Grau and Colonel Bolognesi, the Guise and Villar destroyers, submarines and the four "R", established a naval blockade between Zorritos and Jambelí Channel. The work of the squadron on the coast adversary was complemented by the fleet of patrol boats operating from Tumbes controlling the area of the Esteros, capturing two small Ecuadorian fittings, of Payana and Matapalo and the Ecuadorian boat Hualtaco, contributing also in the capture of Puerto Bolivar.

Meanwhile, in the eastern region of the Amazon River Flotilla it provided valuable logistical support during operations to evict the invaders, to participate actively and decisively in the battle in which the capture of Rocafuerte, on the Napo River was achieved. It should be noted that during the blockade of the Ecuadorian coast, the Villar pursued the Ecuadorian gunboat Abdon Calderon, opposite the Canal Jambelí on 25 July 1941. This persecution, in which some shots were exchanged, he concluded while the ship Ecuadorian fled to hide in the marshes.

The Plaza Alipio Rosales was built in memorial of the Tumbesinos who offered their lives during the conflict with Ecuador in 1941. Zarumilla was a calm scenario of the 1941 Glorious Campaign. The pampas of Zarumilla were the site of the combats against Ecuador in making the Peruvian nationality prevail in this department.

Following a war in 1941 in which Peru defeated Ecuador, the two parties concluded the 1942 Rio de Janeiro Protocol of Peace, Friendship and Boundaries that defined the border and provided for its demarcation. The demarcation process broke down in the late 1940s, however, after more than 90% of the border had been successfully demarcated, when U.S. Army mapping aircraft discovered geographic discrepancies that did not accord with the protocol.

Despite important and delicate territorial questions which remained unresolved, in 1952 Peru and Chile, together with Ecuador, embarked on a process of maritime co-operation with a view to protecting the adjacent sea from the predatory activities of foreign fleets.

The Rio Protocol of February 1942 awarded to Peru some 205,000 square kilometers of previously disputed Amazon territory. Ecuador repudiated the Rio Protocol in 1960, and border incidents occurred periodically thereafter. Peru was concerned about Ecuador's unwillingness since the 1960s to accept the Protocol of Rio de Janeiro of 1942 (Rio Protocol), which defined a border between Peru and Ecuador that gave Peru most of the previously disputed Amazon territory.

The January 1981 incursion by Ecuadorian troops that led to a partial mobilization of forces by both countries. In 1981 Ecuadorian forces, using Paquisha as a base, attempted to secretiy regain access to the Amazon through a seventy-eight-kilometer border zone, erroneously demarcated for the Rio Protocol. Peru rebuffed the Ecuadorian forces militarily with loss of life on both sides.

The dispute was resolved, much to Ecuador's displeasure, by the original guarantors of the Rio Protocol—the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

Peru proudly claimed to have the first preserved submarine museum in Latin America. The BAP Abtao, formerly the BAP Tiburon, was built in 1954 in the USA by The ELectric Boat Co, Groton, Connecticut. She was deployed in the conflict against Ecuador in 1981, but her crew of 40 did not see combat. Decommissioned after 46 years of service, the boat was prepared for preservation by SIMA Shipbuilding and opened as a submarine museum in January 2004.

Periodic incidents since indicated that problems remained, particularly along a seventy-eight kilometer stretch of the border known as Cordillera del Condor, which was never marked off under the terms of the Rio Protocol. Improving Peru's relations with its neighbors, particularly Ecuador and Chile, was a priority in the mid-1980s. Although some productive discussions were held with Ecuador, including a historic visit by Peru's minister of finance to Quito in October 1985, progress was limited by competition with both the Ecuadorian and Chilean military establishments.

Border problems with Ecuador continued to surface from time to time. By 1992, however, the proportion of Peruvian forces deployed in the border areas had declined to 66 percent of personnel. Tensions between Peru and Ecuador increased in 1992 after Ecuadorian troops were alleged to have crossed the border in July in a section that had been marked off; Ecuador denied the charge. However, urgent conversations between the two governments led to an interim agreement in October in hopes of avoiding a new border crisis.

In early 1995, Peru and Ecuador engaged in sustained combat in a remote undemarcated area. Dozens were killed, hundreds wounded, and escalation to cities was feared. As Guarantors of the 1942 Rio Protocol, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile became actively engaged in the search for a diplomatic solution. With Guarantor help, Ecuador and Peru agreed on February 17, 1995, to stop fighting and seek a peaceful settlement of all remaining issues between them.

By October 1995, Guarantor military observers (MOMEP) had organized the withdrawal of some 5,000 troops from the disputed Cenepa Valley and supervised demobilization of 140,000 troops on both sides. The combat zone was demilitarized and Ecuador and Peru began to contribute officers to the observer mission. The United States initially provided most logistical support for MOMEP, but in November 1997, the other Guarantors assumed greater responsibilities, most notably with Brazil providing helicopter support.

In 1996, the Foreign Ministers of Ecuador and Peru worked out the topics and procedures for formal talks. In discussions in Brasilia between April and September 1997, Ecuador and Peru presented their positions, which remained far apart. On November 26, however, the parties accepted a Guarantor proposal to focus talks on four areas: a) a commerce and navigation treaty; b) a comprehensive agreement on border integration; c) fixing the land boundary; and d) mutual security issues.

In Rio de Janeiro on January 19, 1998, Ecuador and Peru signed a workplan that set up four commissions, one in each Guarantor capital, to address the four areas identified in November. Both nations appointed national figures to the commissions, which were installed simultaneously February 17. The workplan set May 30 as the target date for completion of a definitive settlement, which would complete the demarcation of the border and guarantee Ecuador access to the Amazon River in perpetuity.

On 18 January 1999, Peruvian President Fujimori and Ecuadorian President Mahuad presided over a ceremony to celebrate completion of the demarcation of the Lagartococha-Guepi region. The Presidents have solicited assistance from the United States and other countries in clearing the Santiago-Yaupi and Cenepa regions of landmines. Mines emplaced during and after the 1995 conflict must be removed at least from the areas immediately around prospective border stones before demarcation can occur.

The Commerce and Navigation Treaty addressed Ecuador’s longstanding demand for access to the Amazon River. The treaty requires Ecuador and Peru to grant reciprocal most-favored-nation trade status—obliging each to grant the other any benefits or privileges enjoyed by any other trade partner—~and establishes a'binational commission to implement its terms and resolve any disputes. Although the teaty does not specify which Amazon tributaries Ecuador may use, the Napo, Curaray, Tigre, Pastaza, Morona, Santiago, and Maranon rivers are all tributaries to which Ecuador could claim navigation rights.

In 1998, Peru and Ecuador signed a peace treaty ending the 1995 conflict, and in 2001 both governments signed separate agreements with the OAS for coordinating international support for demining; in 2006, the OAS combined both programs under a single coordinator. Peru and Ecuador began simultaneous demining in October 2006, and in July 2007, signed a protocol that created a bilateral medical evacuation plan, established periodic exchanges of information, allowed transfers of equipment between demining teams, and authorized joint training.

On 25 October 2008 Peru-Ecuador talks commemorating the ten-year anniversary of the Brasilia (Itamaraty) Peace Accords, which the Presidents and full cabinets of both countries attended, reflected strengthened bilateral ties and augured new development projects for the shared border region. The personal interactions between Presidents Alan Garcia and Rafael Correa were warm and friendly. Both leaders publicly stated that further steps towards integration and border development would help their countries offset the effects of the global economic downturn and also promote peace in the region. Perhaps the most tangible outcome of the meeting was a renewed bilateral commitment to humanitarian demining through the establishment of a joint trust fund.

The Governmentof Peru planned by 2019 to remove 29,000 anti-personal mines located in the province of Condorcanqui (Amazonas department) in an area of approximately 22,000 square meters. The army of Peru placed the mines after its brief 1995 conflict with Ecuador. Seventeen indigenous communities in both Ecuador and Peru, with a total population of 2,000 persons, live close to the hazardous zone. Although statistics are incomplete, the GOP estimates that since 1999, 300 Peruvian soldiers and civilians have suffered injuries from mines, with at least one fatality. Peru’s chances of advancing toward a legitimate state, democratic governance and good government depend on the success obtained in dis- suading the Armed Forces from exercising, influencing or placing condi- tions upon political authorities, a temptation that has been very present throughout Peru’s republican history. To achieve this, Peru first needs to design a new doctrine of security and national development, eliminate the politicization of military institutions and articulate a new vision of the role the Armed Forces should play in the defense of the national sovereignty and the maintenance of internal order, especially now that the historic conflict with Ecuador has been resolved.



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Page last modified: 05-06-2016 20:46:49 ZULU