The Leticia dispute was a 20th century territorial dispute between Colombia and Peru. It concerned a trapezoid of territory which connected Colombia to the Amazon River and its port of Leticia. Although the area is remote and characterized by tropical jungle, it has some strategic importance because it is Colombias only outlet to the Amazon River and by extension to the South Atlantic.
The port of Leticia had been founded by Peruvians in the 19th Century, but, despite popular protests in Peru, had been ceded to Colombia in a 1922 Treaty. In late 1932 an armed band of Peruvian civilians and soldiers (supposedly acting without Peruvian government approval) took Leticia and forced the Colombian residents to flee. The Peruvian President tried to disassociate himself from these actions, but popular opinion quickly forced him to support the seizure of Leticia. The Colombian Government responded forcefully, sending an expeditionary force which defeated the Peruvians and retook Leticia.
The League of Nations was asked to mediate with the support of Brazilian diplomats, and eventually oversaw the peaceful return of the area to Colombian control. The process generated an interesting historical precedent: for the first time ever soldiers wore the armband of an international organization (the League of Nations) as they performed peacekeeping duties. The soldiers were Colombian, and the use of the League armbands was primarily a face-saving device to permit the Peruvians to leave without appearing to submit to the Colombians. Nevertheless, the use of these 75 Colombian soldiers as international peacekeepers was an antecedent of United Nations peacekeeping several decades later.
Child, Jack, "Peace-keeping and the Inter-American System", Military Review, vol.LX, no. 10, October 1980.
Tenenbaum, Barbara, ed., Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1996, (5 volumes), p. 407.
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