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Map of the disputed territories


The territorial dispute between Ecuadormarker and Perumarker was one of the most persistent and resistant to resolution of any to have occurred in the Western Hemisphere. The conflict dates from soon after two nations claimed their independence from the Spanish Empire in the early 19th century. The dispute survived World War II, outlasted the Cold War, and was the cause of three military conflicts between the disputers in the 20th century: in 1941, in 1981, and, most recently, in 1995.

At present, the dispute is considered resolved. Both nations signed a peace declaration in 1998, brokered by the United Statesmarker, Brazilmarker, Argentinamarker, and Chilemarker, the same countries that had acted as guarantors of a previous treaty signed by Ecuador and Peru in 1942.

Colonial times

The Real Audiencia de Quitomarker was established in 1563 by a Royal decree from the King of Spain. Its territories included Pastomarker, Popayánmarker, Calimarker, Buenaventura and Buga in what is currently Colombiamarker, and extended as far south as Piuramarker in what is now Perumarker. It was part of the Viceroyalty of Peru (also known as Viceroyalty of Lima) until 1717, when it became part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (previously Viceroyalty of Santa Fé de Bogotámarker). [193509] [193510] Limits at the time were imprecise, especially to the east, because of lack of geographical knowledge and the low importance given to unpopulated, hard-to-reach territories.[193511]

The first controversial event between the Viceroyalty of Peru and the Real Audiencia de Quito occurred in 1802, when the military and ecclesiastic administration of both Quijos and Maynas (now in Peru) was given to the Viceroyalty of Peru by royal decree. To this day, there is some dispute as to whether this was a territorial concession as well. This lack of clarity ended up forming the basis for an imprecise territorial situation between Ecuadormarker and Peru once these two nations obtained their independence from Spainmarker. [193512] A similar event occurred in 1803, when it was decided that the military affairs of the Province of Guayaquil (whose capital was the strategically situated port city of Guayaquilmarker) would be run from Lima. Moreover, in 1810, all administrative and economic affairs of the province were turned over to the Viceroyalty of Peru, a state of affairs that would endure until 1819. Jaen de Bracamoros had no such cedula tranferring it to Peru and would rightly belong to Ecuador. However, Jaen decided to join Peru after it took part in northern Peru's revolutionary wars of independence.

Ecuador's claim to the Amazon

One of the first Europeans to enter and explore the Amazonian basin in search for the legendary El Dorado was Gonzalo Diaz de Pineda in December 8, 1538, with 130 Spaniards and a large number of natives. His expedition explored the northwestern region of Ecuador following a Quito - Baeza - Coca River - Napo River route. However, he stopped short of following the Napo river to the Amazon River.

The first European voyage down the Amazon River was made by the governor of Guayaquil Francisco de Orellana in 1541, who joined the new governor of Quito Gonzalo Pizarro's expedition near Quito who decided to follow the Gonzalo Dias de Pineda route, continuing the route down the Napo River to the Amazon River and from there to the Atlantic Ocean. [193513][193514][193515] Both Gonzalo Pizarro and Francisco de Orellana's motivation was the same as Gonzalo Dias de Pineda. They were looking for El Dorado, a native chief, who supposedly covered himself with a gold powder and then washed himself in a lagoon in honour of his gods. The natives of Quito told the Spanish that the land of El Dorado had temples and palaces just like what they found in the Inca Empire. Because the Indians had said that the land of El Dorado had an infinite amount of cinnamon trees, the Spaniards started calling that region Canelas (land of Cinnamon).

Later Jesuit missionaries from Quito set up missions among the natives of the Marañon - Amazon and Ucayali rivers and its tributaries. The kings of Spain confirmed Quito's rights over Spanish Amazonian territories by royal decrees (cédula reales), the important ones being the Cédula of 1563, Cédula of 1739, and Cédula of 1740 placing the border at 6º 30' latitude south of the equator from the Pacific Ocean to the border with Brazil. Ecuador recognizes that there was a Cédula of 1802, but that it was solely a temporary ecclesiastical and military separation due to the Jesuit expulsion from the Americas and the Portuguese incursions into unprotected Spanish Amazonian territories. Ecuador views the Cédula of 1802 as having nothing to do with a political segregation of territory from the Viceroyalty of New Granada, of which the Audiencia of Quito formed a part.

This is essentially the basis of Ecuador's claim that its territory should reach the Amazon River in some manner, and a substantial part of the reason for the longstanding conflict between the two countries.

Until 1999, Ecuador's official motto was:

El Ecuador ha sido, es y será País Amazónico (Ecuador has been, is, and will always be an Amazonian country.).


This is disputed by Peruvian sources, who claim that Gonzalo Pizarro started his journey in Cuzco, and that he recruited Orellana (in Quito) on his way to the jungle and Peru affirms that the Cédula of 1802 was a religious, military, as well as political segragation of territory from the Audiencia of Quito and the Viceroyalty of New Granada in favour of the Viceroyalty of Peru. [193516]

Independence from Spain

The Republic of Gran Colombia was founded in 1819, with Simón Bolivar as President. In August 7 of that year, the independence of what is now Colombiamarker was won in the Battle of Boyacá. The independence of Venezuelamarker was won on June 24, 1821 in the Battle of Carabobomarker. One of Bolivar's generals, Venezuelan-born General Antonio José de Sucre won the Battle of Pichincha in May 24, 1822 and freed the territory that was then Ecuador.

The Gran Colombia comprised what is now Colombiamarker, Ecuadormarker, Venezuelamarker andPanamamarker. It was Simón Bolivar's dream to unite all of South America, a project which he would never achieve.

Even before the battles for the freedom of the South American colonies were over, Bolivar established the uti possidetis juris principle as the basis for the territorial demarcation of the new nation-states that were to be born out of the ancient colonial jurisdictions. In essence, the principle stated that the borders of the new countries should correspond to the Spanish administrative borders, as they were in 1809. This would present some difficulties due to lack of geographical knowledge, and also because much of the territory was unpopulated and unexplored. By this principle, the territory of the Viceroyalty of Peru would become part of Peru, and the territory of the Viceroyalty of New Granada part of the Gran Colombia.

Ecuador as part of Gran Colombia

Bolivar had aspirations to be president for life of Gran Colombia, a republic that would unite most of the former Spanish colonies under his rule. Peruvian President José de la Mar, who had been a member of Bolivar's troops during the wars of independence and born in Cuenca, Ecuador, had his own political ambition: to establish himself as the formal ruler of Peru. As a result, relations between Bolivar and de la Mar quickly cooled, and the two soon became rivals. Bolivar's promotion of Antonio José de Sucre to "Mariscal" (Marshall), which made him his personal war assistant, particularly angered de la Mar, who officially became Bolivar's enemy.

Deciding to free Peru (what is now Peru and Bolivia) from what he considered to be an authoritarian project, he promoted an anti-Bolivarian campaign which gained popular support and led to insurrections, both in Peru and in Bolivia (Alto Perú), where the Colombian Army was expelled. Finally, he decided to confront Bolivar more directly by launching an attack. On June 3, 1828, de la Mar invaded the southern region of Gran Columbia; he occupied Loja and tried to capture Guayas, and intended to annex those territories to Peru.

Furious when he received the news, Simon Bolivar resolved to declare war against Peru. Sucre was appointed Commander of the Colombian Army. In 1829, La Mar and General Agustin Gamarra occupied Cuenca, but were defeated in what is known as the Battle of Portete de Tarqui (also known as the Battle of Tarqui) by Sucre on February 27, 1829. A coup supported by General Gamarra in the Peruvian Army against President de la Mar paved the way for a peace treaty. Subsequently, the Convenio de Girón between Peru and Gran Colombia recognizes as borders the "same ones of the corresponding Viceroyalties before independence." On July 10, the Piura Armistice recognised the annexation of Guayaquilmarker to Gran Colombia, and on September 22, the war between Peru and Gran Colombia ended. [193517]

The Gran Colombia federation dissolved during 1830 because of political struggles between regions which strengthened after Bolivar's resignation. Ecuador was born as a country on May 13, 1830 and began its separate existence with the adoption of a Constitution on September 23, 1830. According to this constitution, the Republic of Ecuadormarker was composed of the provinces of Azuay, Guayas and Quitomarker. These provinces later divided into the many provinces that exist today in Ecuador.

Confusion about Gran Colombia

The term Gran Colombia is used today to refer to the federation that was formed between the Republics of Ecuador, Colombia (with Panama) and Venezuela before 1830. However, Gran Colombia is an anachronistic term, as the country was simply referred to as Colombia, which is clear, for example, by looking at original documentation of the many treaties signed between Colombia and Peru before 1830.

In Peru, the dissolution of Gran Colombia is seen as a country ceasing to exist, giving way to the formation of new nation states that had nothing to do with the original federation. The significant implication of this view is that the treaties Peru had signed with Gran Colombia were voided, as the country in question no longer existed, and was replaced with three new states, the Republic of the New Granadamarker (which subsequently changed its name to Republic of Colombia), the Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of Ecuador.

An alternative view is that Ecuador and Venezuela separated from the Gran Colombia Federation (from Colombia in actuality) and inherited any treaties that Gran Colombia had signed with Peru as they applied to their corresponding territories. There are indications that Colombia itself maintained this position. On the surface, it seems far fetched that the Republic of Colombia after 1830 is a different country from the Republic of Colombia before 1830, even though they shared a capital city, a subset of territory and much of their citizenry. Additionally, the argument that border treaties are voided when federations are dissolved does not appear to have substantial merit and is clearly conflict-prone.

The Pedemonte-Mosquera Protocol

Ecuador and Colombia maintain that the Pedemonte-Mosquea Protocol was signed in Limamarker on August 11, 1830 by Peru and Gran Colombia as a result of the Battle of Portete de Tarqui. The protocol settled the eastern section of the disputed border from the Andes Mountains to Brazil by making the Marañón rivermarker and Amazon river the new border between the two republics. The protocol settled the western section of the border from the Andes Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean by making the Macará river and the Tumbes river the new boundary. However, it left the status of a small area in the Andes Mountains named Jaén de Bracamoros in dispute. It was decided by Pedemonte and Mosquera that on a later date, either the Chinchipe River or the Huancabamba River would be chosen as the new boundary.

Ecuador has used this protocol as primary legal support of its core claims throughout the history of the conflict. Peru has disputed the credibility and the existence of the Pedemonte-Mosquera protocol on several points:

  • The original document has not been produced either by Colombia or Ecuador.
  • Pedemonte and Mosquera were believed to be at different locations on the day in question.
  • The protocol was never ratified by either country's congress.
  • Even if the protocol took place, Ecuador had separated from the Gran Colombia Federation a month before the signing of the protocol - August 11, 1830.
  • The copy produced by Colombia is not sufficient evidence for Peru.


Even though it seems unlikely that Ecuador would have concocted a historical treaty of this nature, the fact that the existence of the original document cannot be demonstrated conclusively is significant.

Ecuador has managed to produce a copy made in 1870 that the Colombian embassy in Lima sent to Bogotámarker. The copy in question was obtained from someone's personal collection. However, it was not certified by Peru and remains disputed.

The Mosquera-Pedemonte protocol is mentioned in a Colombian document titled Legislative Act No. 3 published October 31, 1910. [193518] The document explains how the borders between Colombia and its neighbors have been established; as to its border with Peru, it indicates they are those adopted by Mosquera-Pedemonte, in development of the treaty of September 22, 1829.

There are conflicting versions of what exactly took place. For an Ecuadorian view point, see [193519].For Peruvian points of view, see [193520][193521].

Incidents leading up to 1941

It should be noted that the region that was in dispute is mostly rain forest, more easily accessible from the south at the time than by crossing the Andes from western Ecuador. This is evident from the fact that a large Peruvian city like Iquitosmarker could flourish on the south-eastern shore of the Amazon river, just inside the disputed region.

Whatever technical merit each country's position mighthave had, it is clear that Peru had the upper hand in terms ofcolonization of the region. The disputed territories becamede facto Peruvian, with citizens in this relatively unpopulatedregion who did not see themselves as Ecuadorian. (There are noknown instances of Ecuadorian citizens being forced to adoptPeruvian citizenship against their will, for example.)This increasingly complicated Ecuador's maximalist aspirations,which became unrealistic over time, and was compounded by thefact that territorial integrity generally needs to be backed upby some amount of military power, an area in which Ecuadorwas at a disadvantage.

The dispute, although often simplified by each sideto a couple incidents and treaties, is actually verycomplex in its history. Some of the more prominentoccurrences that finally led to the war of 1941 arethe following:

  • July 6, 1822: Monteagudo-Mosquera Treaty


Mosquera's mission to Lima had two objectives: (1) To come up with a treaty of alliance between Gran Colombia and Peru against Spain, and (2) To have Peru recognize that Guayaquilmarker was to be part of Gran Colombia. Monteagudo initially refused to give up Guayaquilmarker without first having the people of that city express their will voluntarily. The treaty was signed, nonetheless, but precise territorial demarcation was left for a later treaty . [193522]


  • February 28, 1829: La Mar-Sucre Convention


This convention was signed the day after the Battle of Tarqui was won by Gran Colombia ending Peru's attempt to forcefully annex the Department of Guayaquil and the Department of Azuay from the Gran Colombia.


  • September 22, 1829: Larrea-Gual Treaty


Ecuador considers this a transitional treaty that resulted from the Battle of Tarqui and later developed into the disputed Pedemonte-Mosquera Protocol the next year. The uti possidetis principle was ratified, allowing for small concessions with the end of coming up with a more natural and precise border so as to avoid further conflict. The parties agreed to form a binational commission to establish a permanent border. [193523]


  • August 11, 1830: Pedemonte-Mosquera Protocol (Existence disputed)


See discussion above.


  • February 10, 1832: The Separation of Ecuador from Gran Colombia legally Recognized


The Republic of Nueva Granada (Colombia) recognizes separation of the Departments of Quito, Guayaquil, and Azuay from the Gran Colombia union to form the New nation of Ecuador which declared its separation May 12, 1830.


  • July 12, 1832: Pando-Noboa Treaty


Peru recognizes Ecuador as a new republic and signs a treaty of friendship, alliance and commerce. Article XIV mentions that until a convention, respecting the limits of the 2 states, shall have been concluded, the present limits shall be recognized and respected.


  • 1841-1842 Period: León-Valdivieso and Daste-Charún Negotiations


In 1841 Ecuador demands return of the jurisdictions of Tumbes, Jaénmarker and Maynas. After violent discussions, Ecuador gives an ultimatum to the effect that if there's no answer from Peru by a certain date, Ecuador would be forced to occupy territories considered Ecuadorian according to article 5 of the Larrea-Gual treaty of 1829. [193524] Peru considered it absurd to return provinces that were de facto, if not in fact, Peruvian. Recall that Peru considered Maynas annexed to the Viceroyalty of Peru by the Cedula of 1802. Additionally, inhabitants of Jaén and Tumbes had freely indicated their desire to belong to Peru (free determination), even though there was no Royal Decree (Real Cédula) from the King of Spain substantiating their claim. Moreover, Ecuador's claim to Tumbes and Jaén is solely from the Cedula of 1563 and Cedula of 1740 unmodified in the eastern regions of Ecuador. [193525] Territorial negotiations failed in 1842 as the Ecuadorian envoy insisted on the return of Jaén and Maynas.


  • October 23, 1851: Peru-Brazil Treaty


Peru fixes its eastern border with Brazil; however, Ecuador and Colombia protested that the border fixed with Brazil north of the Amazon called the Apoparis-Tabatinga line is within disputed Amazon Territories. The disputed territories (triangular in shape) at that time was disputed between Ecuador, Colombia and Peru and covered everything east of the Andes mountains and everything in between the Caquetá-Japurá river and Marañon-Amazon river.


March 10, 1853: Creation of the Peruvian Government of Loreto

To justify its claims to the disputed amazonian territory Peru decides to create a separate amazonian political military government naming it the Government of Loreto, after Peru successfully takes over a small amazonian port called Nauta. The policy of the Loreto Government is to concentrate on exploring, taking over, and settling these vacant areas with Peruvian citizens before Ecuador and Colombia, thus having a good de facto position if the dispute goes to arbitration. Before 1890, the fluvial armada concentrated in taking over the small river ports along the Marañon river like Nauta, Omaguas, Iquitos, Regis, Parinari, Antonio, Santander, Barrabca, Borja, Mazan, and Destacamento. Most of the exploration of the tributary rivers north of the Marañon river was conducted by a Peruvian military commander named Coronel Pedro Portillo in the early 20th century. The Peruvian fluvial armada at that time consisted of lightly armed rafts and boats with its main base in Iquitos, the capital of Loreto. In this way most of the northern tributary rivers which drained into the Marañon - Amazon river and its adjacent disputed territories were occupied by Peruvians.




This was an expensive war fought over disputed territory bordering the Amazon. On September 21, 1857 Ecuador decided to adjudicate to Britain territories in the Canelos region as payment for international debt it had incurred during the war of independence. Peru immediately protested the Ecuadorian action citing the uti possidetis juris principle by which the Canelos region would belong to Peru, based on the territorial concession of 1802 to the Viceroyalty of Peru. Despite Peruvian complaints, Ecuador proceeded in its negotiations with the British. This led to a 1859 occupation and blockade of Guayaquilmarker by president Castilla. (Ecuador at the time was undergoing a civil struggle.) On February 25, 1860, Peruvian minister Manuel Morales and his Ecuadorian counterpart, Nicolás Estrada, signed the Treaty of Mapasingue in order to end the dispute. (Mapasingue is a location near Guayaquil where Peruvian troops had stationed.) Ecuador voided the concession of territories claimed by Peru to the British, and Peru withdrew its forces. However, the territorial situation remained unclear and was left to be resolved at a later time.


  • 1864: Peruvian Navy establishes presence in Iquitos


Steamships of the Peruvian Navy arrive to Iquitos, first the Morona and Pastaza of 500 and 300 tons, and then two smaller steam boats of 50 tons, the Napo and the Putumayo. Shortly afterwards a dockyard and a navy factory arrive from England and are installed, thus establishing the Factoria Naval de Iquitos.


  • August 1, 1887: Espinoza-Bonifaz Convention


In the Espinoza-Bonifaz convention Ecuador and Peru submitted their dispute to arbitration by the King of Spain. Ecuador announced its withdrawal from the process months before a decision was issued, which was expected to be in 1910. Ecuador alleged that the King was not impartial because the officially undisclosed decision was not favorable. Additionally, there were popular protests in Ecuador against Peru. The King subsequently abstained from issuing a decision. Arbitration documents confirmed Peru's right to Maynas and other lands in dispute. [193526] Ecuador's position was that arbitration did not arrive at a satisfactory conclusion because even Peru's representative had expressed that the King did not have the capacity to consolidate peace, as both countries were parting from absolutely opposing principles. [193527]


  • May 2, 1890: Herrera-García Treaty


Because of disagreements during arbitration by the King of Spain, Ecuador and Peru decided to enter direct negotiations. The treaty signed by Pablo Herrera and Arturo García gave Ecuador access to the Amazon river, dominion over the Napo and Putumayo rivers, part of the provinces of Tumbes and Maynas, and the Canelos region. [193528] The treaty was quickly ratified by Ecuador's congress. As the treaty was not favorable to Peru, its congress maintained discussions, introduced modifications, and approved it on October 1891. (This was in part accepted by Peru due to the recently Peru-Chile (1879 - 1883) war which resulted on the defeat of the Peruvian army.) The modifications mainly removed access to the Amazon river. Ecuador's congress subsequently disapproved the Herrera-García treaty due to the modifications introduced by Peru. Ecuador also requested meetings to further discuss its validity thesis on the Guayaquil (Gual-Larrea) Treaty of 1829. [193529]


  • 1903-1904 incidents


In both 1903 and 1904 there were military confrontations in the Napo river basin. The first one is known as the Angostero Combat and the second one occurred at a location known as Torres Causana. Less numerous but better equipped Peruvian forces were able to cause the retreat of Ecuadorian troops to locations around the Tena and Archidonamarker rivers. [193530]


  • July 15, 1916: Muñoz-Suarez Treaty between Colombia and Ecuador


Ecuador maintains that the Muñoz-Suarez Treaty was an instrument which resulted from a "secret pact" between Colombia and Peru in order to take away Ecuadorian territory that reached Brazilmarker. [193531]


  • June 21, 1924: Ponce-Castro Protocol
    Peru's (red) and Ecuador's (green) claims depicted in a 1926 map


Peru alleges that between 1910 and 1936 Ecuador took advantage of Peru's conflict with Chilemarker and repeatedly made clandestine incursions into Peruvian territory. [193532] The 1924 agreement was intended to settle the dispute by arbitration.


  • July 6, 1936: Ulloa-Viteri Accord


This agreement established a status quo border line based on the effective possession of territory that each country had in the Amazon region at the time. This border was very similar to that established by the Rio de Janeiro Protocol 5 years later. To Ecuador, the status quo line simply demonstrated how much territory Peru had taken from Ecuador in the preceding century. Ecuador never considered this agreement a final treaty of borders, and continued its aspirations which were based on Gual-Larrea and Pedemonte-Mosquera.


Wars between Peru and Ecuador

The war of 1941

As with all other such incidents, there are conflicting accounts to this day as to which side fired the first shot. Peru's version of events (notably well documented in Peruvian sources [193533][193534]) is that Ecuador had been making incursions into its territory since 1937 and occupied several border locations by 1940.

Given these circumstances, the President of Peru, Manuel Prado Ugarteche, ordered the formation of the North Grouping, a military unit in charge of the Northern Operational Theater, on January 11, 1941, consisting of two light divisions with three battalions each, plus four other independent battalions and three artillery batteries (one with six 105 mm guns) (Delgado).

In front of these forces, the Ecuadorian Border Security command had under its orders two Army battalions, the "Montecristi" and the "Cayambe", each one consisting of around 250 troops, armed with 7,92 mm Mauser rifles and a couple of Czech 7,92 mm ZB-26 light machine-guns, plus two Vickers-Maxim machine-guns. There was also a "Córdova" battalion, made up of around 100 troops, and a so-called "Mariscal Sucre" artillery battery, with 71 troops and no artillery pieces. In fact, the only artillery in the whole province of El Oro consisted of six Italian 65 mm mountain guns, sold to Ecuador as leftovers from the Great War, and almost without shells. These guns were never put into action. (Rodríguez, 1943).

As for anti-aircraft defenses, the Ecuadorians had only a pair of 20 mm Breda guns deployed on Puerto Bolivar, which was the only port of entry for supplies, reinforcements, and weapons to arrive to the province, by sea, from the port-city of Guayaquil. The Ecuadorian Army of 1941 had not a single warplane. (Rodríguez, 1943).

It is claimed that on Saturday, July 5, 1941 the Huaquillas unit of the Ecuadorian army invaded Peruvian territory, an action which originated a combat that extended across the entire Zarumilla front, up to a region known as Quebrada Seca.

Ecuador's version of events is that Peru's invasion was an unprovoked act of aggression carried out with the explicit purpose of forcing Ecuador to sign an unfavorable treaty that would impose the status quo border line.

A communiqué by Ecuador's Foreign Ministry indicated that Peruvian forces had been seen advancing north towards the border; all of the Peruvian troops stationed in Tumbes had left Zarumilla and those in Piuramarker and other nearby sites were in turn advancing towards Zarumilla.

According to the Ministry, the actions of the Ecuadorian army were limited to repelling the invasion which was occurring across much of the border. [193535] As support for its arguments Ecuador has repeatedly cited the obvious difference in military might between the two countries, and the lack of preparedness of its forces. It has been speculated that Peru prepared to carry out an all-out invasion and could have been simply waiting for the slightest provocation.

Ecuador has also cited Peru's history of conflict with its other neighbors as evidence of its belligerence. It has been pointed out, however, that these circumstances did not preclude Ecuador from attempting to lay claim to territories it still considered its own. Also, during the War of the Pacific, Ecuador military occupied a portion of the disputed territories.

The much larger and better equipped Peruvian force of 13,000 men quickly overwhelmed the 1,800 Ecuadorian troops guarding the province of El Oro. The Peruvian army had at its disposal a battalion of armor made up of Czech tanks LTP, with artillery and air support. (Beginning with the second third of the 20th century, Peru allegedly has one of the strongest military forces in South America, even as recently as 2005 ranked second after Brazilmarker and stronger than Argentinamarker [193536]).

The Ecuadorian president, Carlos Arroyo del Río, kept Ecuador's best forces in Quitomarker, for fear of his political opponents (Arroyo would later resign on May 31, 1944 after much unrest in the country). Peru carried out the first use of paratroops in combat in the Western Hemispheremarker, dropping three paratroopers over the port-city of Puerto Bolívar (Delgado), one of them having been rescued by Ecuadorian fishermen when he landed on the waters of the Jambelí channel.

This attempt was largely successful in allowing a relatively easy takeover of El Oro towns, devoid by then of any Ecuadorian military presence after the short-lived ceasefire of July 26, brokered by the mediator countries (USA, Brazil and Argentina). After the ceasefire, most of the Ecuadorian troops, by now exhausted and without ammunition, left the field of battle and made their way out of El Oro, towards the city of Cuencamarker.

Thus, when Peru reopened the advance on July 29, which began with simultaneous bombings on the Ecuadorian towns of Machala, Puerto Bolívar, Pasaje, Santa Rosa, and Arenillas, plus a mission to the city of Guayaquil to drop leaflets, the Peruvian forces easily occupied the deserted towns of the province. A new ceasefire having been decreed to enter in effect on July 31 at 18h00 forced the Peruvian command to step up its efforts to occupy Machala and Puerto Bolívar, which they did with troops disembarked directly on Puerto Bolívar from the sea in the afternoon of July 31. (Delgado)

Even then, hostilities didn't cease, as Peruvian forces began operations against the Ecuadorian posts on the Amazonian jungle, most of which were easily overrun.

With Peru occupying El Oro and menacing Guayaquilmarker, plus pressure from the United Statesmarker and Latin America to stop the hostilities as a sign of hemispheric unity against the Axis powers (in World War II), Peru and Ecuador signed the Rio de Janeiromarker Protocol.

Rio de Janeiro Protocol

Map of the dispute (in Spanish)


In May 1941, as tensions at the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border mounted and war was imminent, the governments of the United States of Americamarker, Brazilmarker, and Argentinamarker offered their services in aiding in the mediation of the dispute. Their efforts failed to prevent the outbreak of hostilities on July 23, 1941, but the diplomatic intervention led to a definitive cease-fire being put into place on July 31. Despite this, limited skirmishes continued to occur through the months of August and September in the Ecuadorian provinces of El Oro and Loja, as well as in the Amazonian lands. Ecuador accused Peru of continuing its advances into the highland province of Azuay.

On October 2, with military observers from the three mediating countries serving as witnesses, Ecuador and Peru signed the Talara Accord, which created a demilitarized zone inside the provinces of El Oro and Loja, pending the signing of a definitive peace treaty. Diplomatic efforts continued, with the mediating countries being joined by Chilemarker.

On January 29, 1942, on the final day of the third Pan-American Summit, held in Rio de Janeiromarker, the foreign ministers of Ecuador and Peru, Julio Tobar Donoso and Alfredo Solf y Muro, signed a "Protocol of Peace, Friendship, and Boundaries", known as the Rio de Janeiro Protocol. The observers from the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile co-signed the document, becoming "Guarantors of the Protocol". The Rio Protocol was subsequently ratified by each country's congress on February 26, 1942.

By the terms of the Protocol, Ecuador agreed to withdraw its long-standing claim for rights to direct land access to the Marañonmarker and Amazon rivers; Peru agreed to withdraw Peruvian military forces from Ecuadorian territory. An area of 200,000 km² (77,200 square miles) of hitherto disputed territory in the Maynas region of the Amazonian basin was awarded to Peru, which had been established to be the de facto possessor of the land since the end of the 19th century. The "status quo" line defined in the 1936 Lima Accord was used as the basis for the definitive border line; the previous border recognized current possessions, but not sovereignty. Relative to the 1936 line, Ecuador ceded 18,552 km² of previously possessed territory to Peru, while Peru ceded 5,072 km² of previously possessed territory to Ecuador.

Ecuador's objections to the Protocol and thesis of Nullity

Six times during the demarcation technical problems were found and referred to the Guarantors, with Brazilmarker acting as lead. One of them, which involved the then contested Cordillera del Cóndor, was submitted to arbitration by Captain Braz Dias de Aguiar. Both countries initially accepted the arbiter's award, issued July 1945, and demarcation began in the area according to that ruling.

During 1943 and 1946 the United States Air Force performed several aerial reconnaissance missions over the Cordillera del Cóndor region (losing 2 aircraft and 14 men in accidents.) to help in the demarcation efforts. They found that the Cenepa river was much longer than previously thought and that it runs between the Zamora and the Santiagomarker. This finding conflicted with article VIII, point B-1 of the Rio Protocol, which laid out delineation of the border for that area as follows:

From the Quebrada de San Francisco, the watershed between the Zamora and Santiago Rivers, to the confluence of the Santiago River with the Yaupi;


The difficulty was that there is not one watershed between the Zamora and the Santiago, but two, as interpreted by Ecuador. This resulted in Ecuadorian president Galo Plaza halting demarcation in 1949. About 78 kilometers of border were left unmarked. In 1953 Ecuador withdrew from the Demarcation Commissions, claiming the Protocol "impossible to implement" in that area.

On September 29, 1960 Ecuadorian president José María Velasco Ibarra declared the Rio Protocol null and void. (Peruvian analysts have speculated that this was a politically motivated move by Velasco Ibarra, who was considered a populist, but evidence to support this assertion is totally circumstantial).

With the sole exception of Cubamarker, the American community did not approve of Ecuador's diplomatic move, with the United States sending a letter of protest to Ecuador.

The arguments for what is called Ecuador's thesis of nullity varied, but they were generally the following:

  • It was imposed by military force.
  • It was signed while Ecuadorian towns were under occupation; invasion and occupation of nation states are prohibited by international law.
  • International law does not accept the conquest of territory by force or violence. Even considering de facto possession (1936 status quo border line) Peru took about 14,000 km² of territory.
  • There was lack of compliance by Peru in denying Ecuador free navigation in Amazonian rivers as stipulated.
  • It was a blow to the economic development of a South American country, which is contrary to existing pacts of cooperation.


Peru's counter-arguments included the following:

  • Ecuador cannot unilaterally invalidate a protocol.
  • The core argument on implementability is a demarcation issue, not a justification to invalidate the entire protocol.
  • Peru disputes the notion that the protocol was imposed by premeditated military force.
  • Even though the protocol was signed while Peruvian troops were still occupying El Oro for tactical reasons, the Ecuadorian congress ratified it long after Peruvian troops had left.
  • Several Peruvian governments restricted the navigation clause in response to Ecuador's position on the treaty.
  • On the issue of conquest of territory by force, Peru has pointed out that the disputed territories (Tumbes, Jaen and Maynas) were not under de jure Ecuadorian administration, and that the province of El Oro was not annexed to Peru.


Ecuador argued its thesis extensively for 30 years, but did not find support in the international community. Peru's position, on the other hand, was that a dispute did not exist at all after 1941, a position which lasted until 1995, when it was recognized as a problematic diplomatic issue.

Maps published in Ecuador since the 1960s up to the end of the 20th century officially had to exclude the unmarked 78 kilometers of border, that is, the Rio Protocol line was drawn as unresolved, and to include what Ecuador considered as its own by right, according to the Pedemonte-Mosquera protocol (1830) line, which puts the Marañon (Amazon) river as the border between Peru and Ecuador.

Such controversial maps of Ecuador, known in Ecuador as "Tufiño's map", were referred in Peru as "mapa recortado del Peru" (cut-off map of Peru).

The Paquisha Incident (1981)

The Cenepa War (1995)

Resolution and arbitration

A cease fire was brokered by the four guarantor countries, and subsequently the Itamaratymarker Peace Declaration was signed on February 17, 1995.One of the declaration's clauses included the creation the Military Observer Mission Ecuador-Peru (MOMEP) in orderto verify ceasefire agreements, observe and report infractionsthrough diplomatic channels.

The MOMEP contingent was made upof observers, logistics, and aviation support from the United Statesmarker,Argentinamarker, Brazilmarker, and Chilemarker as part of Operation Safe Border.The mission, unique in its scope, was fully funded by Peru and Ecuador.MOMEP was largely successful despite several tragic accidents due toland mines left in the area.

At a critical moment during late July and early August 1998 it appearedthat Peruvian forces were preparing a preemptive assault on Ecuadorian forces,but the presence of the MOMEP contingent was instrumental in defusing thesituation. [193537]

The guarantors assisted the parties in ministerial level discussions aimedat identifying the significant claims and disagreements of each side.Both countries agreed to a guarantor-sponsored technical commission composedof boundary experts in order to resolve the matter.

Before a critical meeting planned in Brazil for early 1997, both countriesentered a period of unforeseen political events. In Peru, there was a hostagecrisis in its Japanese embassy involving guerrillas of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. Ecuador was going through a period of political instability asPresident Abdala Bucaram, a strong supporter of an agreement on the borderissue, was removed by congress due to alleged mental incapacity. (President Bucaram, who is known for his unusual antics, had visited Peru and was seen on TV eating ceviche and wearing alpaca hoods—a traditional indigenous outfit—along with President Alberto Fujimori.)

These delays nevertheless gave the guarantors more time to come up witha solution to the dispute. Eventually they concluded that a resolutionwould not be possible without granting something to each party.

The commission recognized Ecuador's position on one small already demarcated section of the border, and Peru's position on the larger issue of the single watershed between theZamora and Santiago rivers. The latter was a blow to Ecuador's historic position,and left Tiwinza in Peruvian territory.

The solution the commission arrived at has been characterized as brilliant.It was proposed that an area of one square kilometer at the site ofthe fiercest fighting, Tiwinza, on the Peruvian side of the border,be granted to Ecuador as a non-sovereign private property. The sitecould be used by Ecuador to erect a monument and fly their flag.Even though neither country was completely satisfied with the solution,they both accepted it, which was a significant diplomatic success.

The resolution also called for the creation of two national parkscontiguous to one another (also referred to as a binational park)in the Cordillera del Condor region.

Ambassador Luigi Einaudi, the US guarantor representative, is credited with comingup with the idea of a private property concession in Tiwinza, working almost full timeon the problem, and coming up with ways to express issues in a manner not offensiveto either party. [193538]

On October 26, 1998, these two nations signed a comprehensive peace accord establishing the framework for ending a border dispute. Formal demarcation of border regions started on May 13, 1999. The agreement was ratified without opposition by both nations' congress. U.S. President Bill Clinton said: "This signing marks the end of the last and longest running source of armed international conflict in the Western hemisphere".

Political, social and economic impact

This dispute is unique and significant in the study of causes and resolution of international conflict. Ecuador and Peru are populated by people who share a language, a culture, a religious preference, have basically the same social and ethnic diversity, and comparable economic difficulties. They are also both democracies (for the most part in modern times) which puts in doubt the common contention that democracies never go to war with each other.

Education and public perception

A 2000 study carried out as part of the educational ASA Program found teaching curriculum relating to the dispute to be extremely one-sided in both countries [193539]:

  • Notably, in Ecuador the dispute is a central issue in the study of Ecuador's borders. (Traditionally there has been a course named "History of Borders.")


  • In Peru, the educational system does not give as much importance to the dispute with Ecuador, and is part of the course "Peruvian History". In contrast, the only topic related to the territorial dispute that is normally taught is the Rio Protocol, and its importance in the settlement of this dispute.


Many examples of bias are cited, which can typically be characterized as removal of critical information about the other side's position. Emotional and nationalistic coloring of the material also appears to be routine. Although expected under the circumstances, this has likely fed the cycle of conflict in the past.

Citizens of Ecuador and Peru feel both their countries have lost territory over time. This may seem paradoxical, especially to Ecuadorians who have found themselves on the losing end of each treaty and incident with Peru time and again, at least on paper. The issue is one of overlapping maximalist territorial claims and aspirations.

Many Peruvians, for example, believe that their country is related with the Inca Empire, and that compared to the Tahuantinsuyo, is relatively small. At one point, the Viceroyalty of Peru contained most of South America, and its division in favor of other viceroyalties is seen by some Peruvians as a disgrace. They also feel they have lost territory to Boliviamarker, Brazilmarker, Colombiamarker and Chilemarker, with whom they have had other kinds of disputes.

Ecuadorians see their country as a continuation of what was the Real Audiencia de Quito, which was also important in colonial times, containing territories that are now parts of Peru and Colombia, reaching Brazil to the East. Being citizens of one of the smallest countries in South America, Ecuadorians understandably feel that something must have gone terribly wrong if the country used to be so big back then. (Geography, colonization patterns and conflicting claims are seldom considered.)

The fact that Peru invests so much on its military (perhaps because it has had border disputes with several other countries) doesn't help matters. This has been seen by Ecuador as evidence of belligerence and expansionism. Peru also considers Ecuador belligerent and perhaps even expansionist, a view most Ecuadorians would find astonishing under the circumstances.

At the end of the 20th century things appear to have improved considerably. Ecuador's partial military success in the Cenepa War of 1995 allowed an honorable resolution of the conflict without a clear winner. To many Ecuadorians this was viewed as restoring the honor of the country, which was at least as important as their claims to the disputed territory. Unfortunately, not everyone is completely satisfied.

One example of this is the fact that in Peru there are still some who believe Ecuador shouldn't have been given perpetual private property rights over the single km² spot of land known as Tiwintza, which saw some of the most fierce fighting during the war of 1995. In time, more progressive views have found their way in the public discourse. More significantly perhaps, by the 1990s both nations had become exhausted by the endless dispute, and were more interested in finding a definitive negotiated solution to the border problem than ever before.

Today, the entire Ecuadorian-Peruvian border is clearly delimited and demarcated, and the maps of both countries agree on the location of the common frontier.

Economic impact

One of the concerns both countries have had is the impact of the dispute on foreign investment. Thomas McLarty, US envoy at the resolution talks and former aid to President Bill Clinton, has said peace is essential to South America's economic recovery. He added: "You clearly cannot have long-term growth and prosperity involving foreign investment without stability". [193540] While there are still political instability issues in the region, resolution of the territorial conflict is helpful.

Trade between both countries has benefited considerably. Before signing the peace treaty, annual trade between Peru and Ecuador was about 100 million dollars. But as early as 1998, it had increased 5-fold. [193541]

There was also a broad agreement of integration between both countries. [193542] [193543] It included a binational fund for peace and development, national plans for productive, social and environmental development, and so on.

Political implications

According to Gabriel Marcella (US Department of National Security and Strategymarker), asa result of the Ecuadorian-Peruvian territorial dispute "a numberof emerging views about international affairs, U.S. foreign policy, and moderninter-American affairs were either shattered or seriously challenged". [193544] Some of theglobal and regional political implications of the dispute which have beennoted are the following:

  • It was a blow to the idea that democracies do not go to war with one another. An armed conflict between these two nations has existed well before then, nevertheless, on and off with major confrontations occurring in 1941, 1981 and 1995. Ecuador and Peru have both been full-fledged democracies for the most part in modern times, although of course not perfect or politically stable.


  • It was a blow to the idea that Latin America is a model for peaceful international relations. It is a reminder that there are other territorial disputes and conflicting claims among other Latin American countries which could potentially threaten peace in the region.


  • Civil-military relations in both countries have been impacted and need to be reexamined. If in fact the conflict was allowed to escalate after accidental encounters between patrols, it has been suggested that the civilian authority should perhaps assume more solid leadership and control.


  • The principle that territorial treaties in Latin America are not the result of force or violence needs to be reexamined as a result.


References

  1. http://www.usip.org/pubs/peaceworks/pwks27/appndx1_27.html
  2. Julio Tobar Donoso, La Invasión Peruana y el Protocolo de Rio. Antecedentes y Explicación Histórica. Quito, Banco Central del Ecuador, 1982 (1st Ed. 1945). P. 462.
  3. BBC News | Americas | Peru and Ecuador sign border treaty


Further reading

  • Zook, David H., Jr. Zarumilla-Marañón: The Ecuador-Peru Dispute. New York: Bookman Associates, 1964.
  • Marcella, Grabriel. Downes, Richard. Security Cooperation in the Western Hemisphere: Resolving the Ecuador-Peru Conflict. University of Miami Iberian Studies Institute, 1999.
  • Peirce, Holly. Security cooperation in the western hemisphere: Lessons from the 1995 Ecuador-Peru conflict (North-South Center conference reports). North-South Center at the University of Miami, 1997.
  • Delgado, Luis Humberto. Las Guerras del Perú. Tomo I. Lima, 1971.
  • Rodríguez, Luis. La Agresión Peruana de 1941. Quito, 1943.
  • Herz, Monica and Nogueira, João. Ecuador vs. Peru: Peacemaking amid Rivalry. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002.


See also




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