Americas, Ecuador, Peru, Politics

Border Wall of Discord: Tensions Between Peru and Ecuador

Latin American history is plagued by hundreds of wars and a few peace treaties, such as Peru and Ecuador, nations that in 1941 staged a decades-long armed conflict over territorial disputes. Now the conflict between the two countries has sparked once again. The reason? A 6-meter high border wall.

The rather puerile question of who started the conflict will always depend on the history of the country. According to Ecuador, it was Peru who crossed its limits (for the second time) in 1936 and if you ask Peru, it was Ecuador who violated the treaties of that year and not only transgressed their limits but attacked the Peruvian combat forces.

But why are we talking about an event that happened almost 70 years ago? Mainly because the border line between both countries is a stream of street vendors on both sides. Moving from Peru to Ecuador can be a matter of 5 steps, we could literally buy bread from one side and butter from the other to have breakfast on the road… and Ecuador doesn’t really like that, so they ordered the construction of a 6-meter dividing wall.

Trump-Style Border Wall or ‘Recreational Park’?

At this point, everyone is aware of the US President’s proposal to strengthen the US-Mexico border with a border wall. Since its campaign announcement, the acclaimed wall was rejected by Mexico and the rest of Latin America, as it carries the symbolism of alienation and very strong contempt towards the Latino communities.

It seems then quite logical that the Ecuadorian government began the construction of the dividing wall based on the premise that it will be a large park and not a simple limiting wall.

The Ministry of Urban Development and Housing of Ecuador explained that $4 million have been invested in this “park” that runs parallel to the stream dividing both countries. What not many media sites mention is that this wall is only one kilometer long. As the border that Peru and Ecuador share is 1,529 kilometers, we are not really talking about a great wall or a definitive impediment of passage.

Why is the Border Wall Between Ecuador and Peru a Scandal?

In diplomatic matters, if a country intends to make a construction so close to another, it should notify the government of the neighboring country, particularly if they have a history of wars.

Ecuador evicted hundreds of street vendors who lived around the stream and immediately began building a “park” without notifying the Peruvian government. Naturally, the Foreign Ministry expressed outrage and stressed that it was a clear aggression to the peace treaty signed in 1995 in Brasilia, after decades of territorial rivalries.

This treaty had a precedent: the protocol of Rio de Janeiro, which purpose was to seat representatives of both nations in 1942 to resolve the asperities and achieve peace. However, Ecuador did not agree with the proposal, because, according to their representatives, they were losing more than 78kms of territory and withdrew from the negotiation table. It was not until 1995 that a definitive treaty was achieved.

Returning to the 21st century, the Peruvian government raised a formal and international complaint, requesting the cessation of said construction alleging a violation of the peace treaty of Brasilia. Of course, Ecuador assures that none of the agreements were broken. Still, a few weeks after the Peruvian complaint, the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry announced the cessation of construction.

Money Lost, Peace Found

Rafael Correa, former Ecuadorian president, said on Twitter that suspending the construction of the park was an absurd measure since a lot of money had been invested in it and that, in fact, its construction was announced in November 2013 during the presidency of Ollanta Humala as part of the work “binational city”.

Seeking to clean up the troubled image of Ecuador in all this mess, Correa’s complaint extends to the responsibilities of Peru, ensuring that the presence of street vendors on the border itself was something that violated the peace agreement and nothing was done to solve it.

The last meeting between cabinets of both countries took place in October of 2017 and the thematic axes were quite positive, so it seems that the idea of creating a border wall between them is, at least for the moment, out of sight.

About Daniela D. Franco

Daniela is a Social Psychologist from Venezuela, she is interested in the changes technology and the development of social networks generate into human interactions, and is currently studying Digital Marketing. She enjoys reading, writing and biking while David Bowie is playing in her iPod.

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