The populations of Peru and Ecuador are accustomed to periodic threats and minor skirmishes on the Condor Cordillera (Financial Times, Jan. 1995). January 29, however, is the anniversary of the treaty signed in 1942 that gave almost half of Ecuador to Peru. Tensions always rise during this time, but in 1995 they hit a 14- year peak (New York Times, Feb., 1995). This time, however, clashes erupted. Ecuador's President Sixto Duran Ballen proclaimed a state of national emergency and called up the reserves. Peru responded by mobilizing thousands of troops and massing them in the border area of Timbles. Ecuadorian officials maintained that Peru was attacking territory that was under Ecuadorian control for decades and was outside the area of dispute (Ibid).
Ecuador's armed forces also accused the Peruvians of using CH-47 Chinook and Bell-212 helicopters, which they say were provided by the US to aid in Peruvian drug fighting efforts. Two Peruvian airlines suspended flights to Quito, the capital of Ecuador (The Commercial Appeal, Jan. 1995).
Each side accused the other of provoking the conflict and insisted it was a peace-seeking nation which is honor-bound to defend its sovereignty and national territory. The core of the dispute - dating back to the earliest independence period - lies in the exact position of the border.
Land squabbles have surrounded bilateral relations for more than 150 years. The disputes between Peru and Ecuador began during the time of the Incas when the Incas from Cuzco, Peru conquered the kingdom of Quito, Ecuador. In 1535, a mission was sent from Quito to mark the border with Peru. Ecuador claims that the first expeditions were dispatched from Quito and that the Jesuits from there set up the first missions. Peru argues that an expedition from Lima discovered the Amazon. In 1802, the Spanish crown gave title over the region to the viceroyalty of Lima, taking it from that of New Granada, which included modern-day Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The Ecuadorian historians have interpreted a subsequent ruling in 1819 as reversing that decision. The dispute has lasted for hundreds of years since.
The last major conflict was in 1941 when Peru invaded Ecuador. A ten-day war ensued, ending with a the signing of the so-called Rio de Janeiro Protocol, which defined the border between the two countries. Congresses of both Peru and Ecuador ratified the treaty and four countries - the US, Brazil, Chile and Argentina accepted the task of being its 'guarantors.'
Mapping the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border was completed in early 1947 by the US air force. Boundary markers were established along some 1600 km of frontier, but 78km in the Condor Cordillera stretch, east of the city Zamora, remained unmarked. This is where the dispute centered and is an area believed to be rich in gold, uranium, and oil deposits. (Financial Times, Jan. 1995).
Ecuador, in turn, argued that it was obliged to sign the protocol under pressure. Since 1950 it has dubbed the protocol as 'impossible to execute' and has laid claims to an area of around 130 square miles, in what, according to the Rio Protocol, was Peruvian territory. Over the last 150 years, Ecuador has seen its territory whittled away to the point where it is now the smallest country in the Andes. It also finds itself as a buffer country between the regions' two powers-Columbia and Peru. With fights over arable land an increasing problem, Ecuador today is South America's most densely populated nation (New York Times, Feb. 1995).
A cease fire was announced in the beginning of February only after border fighting claimed the lives of Ecuadorian and Peruvian soldiers (Reuters North American Wire, Mar., 1995). Observers from the four guarantor countries arrived at the disputed border region to make sure the cease fire was adhered to by both sides. The peace plan was signed on February 17, 1995 and committed both countries to withdraw their forces 'far' from the disputed zone (Latin American Newswire Mar., 1995).
Normalization of relations has been a slow process, but the tensions remain high. The two countries refused to engage in face-to-face talks over the border negotiations. Instead, the guarantor countries had to continue to act as intermediaries at every stage. The two, countries did, however, reestablish diplomatic ties (Latin American Newsletters Jul. 1995).
b. Region: WESTERN SOUTH AMERICA
c. Country: ECUADOR
The clearance of the jungle and the attempt to mine, drill, and cultivate the land will result in the disruption of the balance between plants and animals.
Proposals have surfaced to create a peace park along the border. In Peru, the initiative is attracting a great deal of support from both businesses and politicians. Even President Fujimori claims to have been the first to propose joint eco-tourism and conservation ventures in the disputed zone as far back as 1992...In mid-February, as the conflict raged on the border, Arturo Woodman, president of the private business lobby Confiep, organized a summit of Peruvian and Ecuadorian business leaders during which the ideal of a demilitarized park was widely supported." However, the business group's proposal "does not envision the area remaining in a virgin state, but rather developed with both tourism infrastructure and jointly managed industrial projects such as mining or petroleum products extraction facilities."
There has been ecological damage done to this region of extraordinary
biodiversity and extreme fragility. During 12 days of the most intense
bombardments, an average of 720 projectiles were fired, damaging at least
72,000 square meters of land. Nothing will grow for at least ten years
on the soil damaged by bombs (Latin American Newsletter Apr., 1995).
8. Act and Harm Sites
Act Site Harm Site Example
Peru Ecuador Control of watershed area
III. Conflict Aspects
9. Type of Conflict: Interstate
The disputed border is rich in uranium, gold, and oil deposits, as well
as a potential for other natural resources that have yet to be discovered
in the dense jungle. In addition, Ecuador, has the most dense population
in South America. The thought of losing even more land was an incentive
for Ecuador to go to war over the border. Nevertheless, the disputed region
is filled with virgin forests, deep ravines and 4,000 foot mountains...shrouded
in fog, and said to be virtually impossible to know where one side's stated
border begins or ends.
10. Level of Conflict: LOW
The Aguarana and Shuar groups of the Jibara peoples who live on both sides
of the Ecuador-Peru border were ignored in the border war even though they
were the traditional owners of the disputed land. The undeclared war occurred
exclusively in an area in which 120 communities are located. The war had
a serious impact on the local communities, and a reported 28 people were
killed during the conflict.. None of the 28 people killed, however, were
reported on the list of casualties, and their families have not received
compensation like families of the soldiers and other dead (Inter Press
Service Mar., 1995). Of the 350 Indian communities on the Ecuadorian side
of the border, 20,000 people were directly affected by the fighting, 8000
of them were permanently displaced, their habitats destroyed (Latin American
Newsletters Apr., 1995). Jungle Indians were used as scouts on both sides,
and Ecuador was said to have a crack unit of Shuar jungle troops, who found
themselves fighting against their own relatives on the other side. Human
rights groups also reported that the Peruvian military was using the local
inhabitants to probe minefields before launching assaults on Tiwintza and
other Ecuadorian bases in the disputed area (Latin American Newsletter
11. Fatality Level of Dispute: about 20
III. Environment and Conflict Overlap
12. Environment-Conflict Link and Dynamics: DIRECT
13. Level of Strategic Interest: BILATERAL
14. Outcome of Dispute: STALEMATE
IV. Related Information and Sources
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16. Relevant Websites and Literature
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There has been ecological damage done to this region of extraordinary biodiversity and extreme fragility. During 12 days of the most intense bombardments, an average of 720 projectiles were fired, damaging at least 72,000 square meters of land. Nothing will grow for at least ten years on the soil damaged by bombs (Latin American Newsletter Apr., 1995).