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The Paquisha War was a brief military clash that took place between January and February 1981 between Ecuador and Peru over the control of three watchposts. While Peru felt that the matter was already decided in the Ecuadorian-Peruvian War of 1941, Ecuador did not agree with the Rio de Janeiro Protocol. Later in 1998 the Guarantors of the Rio Protocol ruled that the border of the undelimited zone was indeed the line of the Cordillera del Cóndor, as Peru had been claiming since the 1940s.
In the aftermath of the incident, both sides increased their military presence along the Cordillera del Cóndor area and Cenepa Valley, starting an escalating spiral of tension and provocation that finally resulted in another military confrontation in 1995, the Cenepa War.
While the name Paquisha War is widely used by the international community and Ecuador, in Spanish this incident is also known as the Falso Paquisha War in Peru and, occasionally, as the Paquisha Incident.
For details on the history of the border dispute between Ecuador and Peru, please see History of the Ecuadorian-Peruvian territorial dispute.
The Paquisha or "Fake Paquisha" Incident
The dispute revolved around the existence of three Ecuadorian military outposts, called Paquisha, Mayaico, and Machinaza, located in the valley of the Comaina River, beyond the eastern slopes of the Condor range (in Spanish, Cordillera del Cóndor). While these posts were located in the as yet non-demarcated zone of the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border, the establishment of these posts was considered by the Peruvian Government as a violation of a status quo line arranged between the military leaders of both countries in the course of several meetings at the end of the 1970s. During these agreements both sides would have agreed not to establish any new military posts in the disputed areas, which would have meant for Ecuador not to establish any military presence to the east of the ridgeline of the Condor Range.
The Ecuadorian possession of these posts was denounced by Peruvian representatives at the foreign ministers' meeting of the OAS, on February 2, 1981. During this meeting, the Peruvian Foreign Minister, Javier Arias Stella, called the three Ecuadorian military outposts falsos ("fakes"), despite Ecuadorian sovereignty.
The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Alfonso Barrera Valderde, responded to this allegation stating that when Ecuador responded to the attacks on January 28, it always specified that the attacks were being made against the destacamentos (military outposts) of Paquisha, Mayaicu, and Machinaza, not against the similarly named Ecuadorian towns.
The meeting concluded with a resolution that announced a cease fire in the conflict zone, and noted that both countries had accepted a commission of representatives from the guarantor countries[who?] to safeguard the observance of the cease fire and establish conditions for peace between Peru and Ecuador.
The Fuerza Aérea del Peru (FAP) flew many sorties with A-37B, Mirage 5P and Su-22 to support these operations. The FAE flew 179 combat missions with A-37B and Mirage F-1 aircraft to counter the FAP attacks. On January 28, 1981 there was a dogfight between 2 A-37Bs of the FAE and FAP.
Ecuadorians were able to capture a Paquishan outpost which, according to the Peruvians, was in Peruvian territory according to the treaty in the Ecuadorian-Peruvian war of 1941. The Peruvian operation was a success, the outpost of Falso Paquisha, that was occupied by the Ecuadorians, was taken on February 5, 1981 by Peruvian troops. The conflict, which occurred in a then non-demarcated area of the common border between Ecuador and Peru, ceased with the Ecuadorians being expelled from the slopes and driven back to the summit of the Cordillera del Cóndor.
As a result, the Peruvian and Ecuadorian governments, with assistance of each one of the Guarantors, agreed to separate their forces. This "gentleman's agreement" remained in effect throughout the 1980s, with various measures taken to codify conduct of patrols encountering one another in the disputed area.
Context of the "gentlemen's agreement."
To avoid the disaster of 1941 in regard to loss of civilian lives and a possible invasion to the south of Ecuador, the High Command sent twenty-five thousand men under the command of General Richelieu Levoyer with the task of defending possible invasion pathways.
Until then the Ecuadorian Defense Plan envisaged a logistics operations taking about eight days to set up defensive positions. Levoyer proposed a new plan which placed all personnel, weapons, supplies, etc., in twenty-four hours in the front and ready to fulfill the mission of defense.
The Peruvian armed forces were surprised by the rapid deployment of Ecuadorian forces, so, thinking that Levoyer and his men might invade the north of Peru, they organized anti-tank defense lines, trenches, and other defenses.
Fortunately, events did not lead to general war. The widespread confrontation was avoided probably because of the direct talks between top military Commanders of the two countries, and the military Delegates of Chile, Argentina, Brazil and USA. The talks took place in the border line near the Pacific Ocean, in the towns of Huaquillas (Ecuador, Province of El Oro) and Aguas Verdes (Peru, Department of Tumbes). The result was the Sorrosa-Du Bois Act.
The cycle of direct face to face talks included Levoyer who was called by the Peruvians the leader of the "hard line". While they ran, Levoyer staged exercises both to encourage his men and to undermine the morale of their Peruvian opponents who had to get used to the daily six o'clock in the morning start of the exercises, which included artillery and other displays of force.
Border violence remained constant until the resolution of the Ecuadorian-Peruvian territorial dispute in 1998 through the Brasilia Presidential Act. Violence occurred most of the time around January, which coincides with the month that the Rio Protocol was signed. Despite several proposals to complete demarcation of the border, no agreement was possible at that time.
Several military bases were built up and down the Cordillera by both countries, and the region was militarized. The Peruvian bases were serviced by helicopter, while on the Ecuadorian side, gravel roads were constructed to several military border posts.
Some sources claim that the Ecuadorian resistance to the full implementation of the border demarcation during the 1970s and 1980s was almost entirely due to domestic political struggles.
According to the USIP, after this war, Ecuador's Foreign Ministry conducted a national opinion survey that reportedly confirmed the popularity of nullification of the Rio Protocol and Ecuador's right to sovereign access to the Amazon river. Thus, in 1983, the Ecuadorian congress reaffirmed its position on the nullity of the Rio Protocol.
- "Paquisha, 35 años de este importante nombre en la historia del Ecuador" (in Spanish). Retrieved 8 January 2018.
- Mena, 1981
- Mena Villamar, Claudio. Paquisha: toda la verdad. Letranueva. Quito, 1981.