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|100 Hour War|
Map of Honduras, where most of the fighting took place
|Commanders and leaders|
|Fidel S. Hernández||Oswaldo L. Arellano|
|30,000 (Ground forces)
1,000 (Aerial forces)
|23,000 (Ground forces)
600 (Aerial forces)
|Casualties and losses|
|900 (including civilians)||2,100 (including civilians)|
The Football War (Spanish: La guerra del fútbol), also known as the Soccer War or 100 Hour War, was a brief war fought by El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. The cause of the war was economic in nature, namely issues concerning immigration from El Salvador to Honduras. These existing tensions between the two countries coincided with rioting during the second North American qualifying round of the 1970 FIFA World Cup. The war began on 14 July 1969, when the Salvadoran military launched an attack against Honduras. The Organization of American States negotiated a ceasefire on the night of 18 July (hence "100 Hour War"), which took full effect on 20 July. Salvadoran troops were withdrawn in early August.
Despite the elapse of more than forty years, a formal peace treaty, a decision by the International Court of Justice and the support of the Organization of American States, the dispute remains active.
Although the nickname "Football War" implies that the conflict was due to a football game, the causes of the war go much deeper. The roots of the war were issues over land reform in Honduras and immigration and demographic problems in El Salvador. Honduras is more than five times the size of neighbouring El Salvador, but in 1969 the population of El Salvador (3.7 million) was some 40% higher than that of Honduras (2.6 million). At the beginning of the twentieth century, Salvadorans had begun migrating to Honduras in large numbers. By 1969, more than 300,000 Salvadorans were living in Honduras. These Salvadorans made up twenty percent of the peasant population of Honduras. In Honduras, as in much of Central America, a large majority of the land was owned by large landowners or big corporations. The United Fruit Company owned ten percent of the land, making it hard for the average landowners to compete. In 1966, the United Fruit Company banded together with many other large companies to create la Federación Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Honduras (FENAGH; the National Federation of Farmers and Livestock-Farmers of Honduras). FENAGH was anti-campesino as well as anti-Salvadoran. This group put pressure on the Honduran president, General Oswaldo López Arellano, to protect the property rights of wealthy landowners.
In 1962, Honduras successfully enacted a new land reform law. Fully enforced by 1967, this law gave the central government and municipalities much of the land occupied illegally by Salvadoran immigrants and redistributed it to native-born Honduran peoples as specified by the Land Reform Law. The land was taken from both immigrant farmers and squatters regardless of their claims to ownership or immigration status. This created problems for Salvadorans and Hondurans who were married. Thousands of Salvadoran laborers were expelled from Honduras, including both migrant workers and longer-term settlers. This general rise in tensions ultimately led to a military conflict.
Honduras and El Salvador met in the second North American qualifying round for the 1970 FIFA World Cup. There was fighting between fans at the first game in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa on 8 June 1969, which Honduras won 1–0. The second game, on 15 June 1969 in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador, which was won 3–0 by El Salvador, was followed by even greater violence. A play-off match took place in Mexico City on 26 June 1969. El Salvador won the decisive third game 3–2 after extra time. That same day, El Salvador dissolved all diplomatic ties with Honduras, stating that "the government of Honduras has not taken any effective measures to punish these crimes which constitute genocide, nor has it given assurances of indemnification or reparations for the damages caused to Salvadorans".
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Late in the afternoon of 14 July 1969, concerted military action began. San Salvador City was put on a black out and the Salvadoran Air Force, using passenger airplanes with explosives strapped to their sides as bombers, attacked targets inside Honduras. The better equipped Honduran Air Force was caught off guard by the Salvadoran aggression. Salvadoran air-raid targets included the airport facility at Toncontin, which left the Honduran Air Force unable to react quickly. The larger Salvadoran army launched major offensives along the two main roads connecting the two nations and invaded Honduras.
Initially, rapid progress was made by the Salvadoran army. By the evening of 15 July, the Honduran army had been pushed back over eight kilometers. The departmental capital of Nueva Ocotepeque fell shortly after along with eight other cities, placing the Salvadoran army within striking distance of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. The momentum of the advance did not last, however. The Honduran air force reacted by striking the Salvadoran Ilopango airbase. The effectiveness of the attack on Ilopango has been called into question but it is generally accepted that the bombing of oil facilities and depots severely disrupted the logistics of the Salvadoran army.
There is enough evidence to support the contention that, after the surprise Salvadoran air-raid attacks on Toncontin, the Honduran air force did manage to establish and maintain control of the air in their territory. On 15 July, the Organization of American States met in an emergency session and demanded that El Salvador withdraw from Honduras. The government in San Salvador refused unless promised that reparations would be made to those Salvadorans who were displaced and those who remained in Honduras would not be harmed.
During the war, the Third Military Zone of the Honduran Army was discovered to have only half of its allotted soldiers. The money for the missing troops had been collected by an apparently corrupt Honduran Army officer. Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle helped Honduras by providing weapons and ammunition.
The Honduran government called on the OAS to intervene, fearing that the nearing Salvadoran Army would invade the capital Tegucigalpa, the OAS met in an urgent session and called for an immediate cease-fire and a withdrawal of El Salvador's forces from Honduras. El Salvador resisted the pressures from the OAS for several days, demanding that Honduras first agree to pay reparations for the attacks on Salvadoran citizens and guarantee the safety of those Salvadorans remaining in Honduras. A cease-fire was arranged on the night of 18 July; it took full effect only on 20 July. El Salvador continued until 29 July to resist pressures to withdraw its troops. Then a combination of pressures led El Salvador to agree to a withdrawal in the first days of August. Those persuasive pressures included the possibility of OAS economic sanctions against El Salvador and the dispatch of OAS observers to Honduras to oversee the security of Salvadorans remaining in that country. The actual war had lasted just over four days, but it would take more than a decade to arrive at a final peace settlement.
El Salvador finally withdrew its troops on 2 August 1969. On that date, Honduras guaranteed Salvadoran President Fidel Sanchez Hernandez that the Honduran government would provide adequate safety for the Salvadorans still living in Honduras. Sanchez had also asked that reparations be paid to the Salvadoran citizens as well, but that was never accepted by Hondurans. There were also heavy pressures from the OAS and the debilitating repercussions that would take place if El Salvador continued to resist withdrawing their troops from Honduras.
The war in the Central American skies over El Salvador and Honduras is said to be the last conflict in which piston-engined fighters fought each other, both sides deploying World War II era aircraft. Cavalier P-51D Mustangs, F4U-1, -4 and -5 Corsairs, T-28A Trojans, AT-6C Texans and even C-47 Skytrains converted into bombers saw action.
Both sides of the Football War suffered extensive casualties. Some 300,000 Salvadorans were displaced due to the battle. Many had been forcibly exiled or had fled from war-torn Honduras, only to enter an El Salvador in which the government was not welcoming. Most of these refugees were forced to provide for themselves with very little assistance. Over the next few years, more Salvadorans returned to their native land, where they were surrounded by overpopulation and extreme poverty.
El Salvador suffered about 900 casualties, troops and civilians, killed during the war. Honduras lost 100 combat troops, and over 2,000 civilians during the four-day war. Most of the war was fought on Honduran soil and thousands more were made homeless. Trade between Honduras and El Salvador had been greatly disrupted, and the border officially closed. This damaged the economies of these nations tremendously and threatened the Central American Common Market (CACM).
- The war resulted in a 22-year suspension of the Central American Common Market, a regional integration project that had been set up by the United States largely as a means of counteracting the effects of the Cuban Revolution.
- The political power of the military in both countries was reinforced. In the Salvadoran legislative elections that followed, candidates of the governing National Conciliation Party (Partido de Conciliación Nacional, PCN), were largely drawn from the ranks of the military. Having apologized for their role in the conflict, they proved very successful in elections at the national and local levels. However, these elections were considered fraudulent, especially on the part of the military dictatorship that virtually ruled El Salvador. In contrast to the gradual democratization process that had characterized the 1960s, the military establishment in El Salvador would return to institutionalized fraud. The 1972 presidential election was blatantly manipulated to deny Jose Napoleon Duarte a certain victory.
- The social situation in El Salvador worsened, as the government proved unable to satisfy the economic needs of its citizens deported from Honduras. The resulting social unrest was one of the causes of the El Salvador Civil War, which followed 10 years later.
Eleven years later the two nations signed a peace treaty on 30 October 1980 and agreed to resolve the border dispute over the Gulf of Fonseca and five sections of land boundary through the International Court of Justice. In 1992, the Court awarded most of the disputed territory to Honduras, and in 1998, Honduras and El Salvador signed a border demarcation treaty to implement the terms of the ICJ decree. The total disputed land area given to Honduras after the court's ruling was around 374.5 km2 (145 sq mi). In the Gulf of Fonseca the court found that Honduras held sovereignty over the island of El Tigre, and El Salvador over the islands of Meanguera and Meanguerita.
The dispute continued despite the ICJ ruling. At a meeting in March 2012 President Porfirio Lobo of Honduras, President Otto Pérez of Guatemala, and President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua all agreed that the Gulf of Fonseca would be designated as a peace zone. El Salvador was not at the meeting. However in December 2012, El Salvador agreed to a tripartite commission of government representatives from El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua that was to take care of territorial disputes through peaceful means and come up with a solution by 1 March 2013. The commission did not meet after December, and in March 2013 stiff letters threatening military action were exchanged between Honduras and El Salvador.
- Uppsala Conflict Data Program Conflict Encyclopedia, El Salvador, http://www.ucdp.uu.se/gpdatabase/gpcountry.php?id=51®ionSelect=4-Central_Americas, viewed on 24 May 2013
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- Salvador-Honduras War, 1969
- Soccer War 1969
- El Salvador vs Honduras, 1969: The 100-Hour War
- Land, Island and Maritime Frontier Dispute (El Salvador/Honduras: Nicaragua intervening), International Court of Justice case registry
- Application for Revision of the Judgment of 11 September 1992 in the Case concerning the Land, Island and Maritime Frontier Dispute (El Salvador/Honduras: Nicaragua intervening) (El Salvador v. Honduras), International Court of Justice case registry