The Cenepa War , also known as the Alto Cenepa War, was a brief and localized military conflict between Ecuador and Peru, fought over control of a disputed area on the border between the two countries. The indecisive outcome of the conflict with both sides claiming victory along with the mediation efforts of the United States of America, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, paved the way for the opening of diplomatic negotiations that ultimately led to the signing of a definitive peace agreement in 1998, putting an end to one of the longest territorial disputes in the Western Hemisphere.
The Cenepa War was the last of a series of military clashes that occurred between Ecuador and Peru over a long standing territorial dispute that dated back to the first decades of the 19th century, when both countries came into being after the Wars of Independence of the Spanish colonies in South America.
In modern times there had been two previous military confrontations: a full-scale war in 1941, and a brief clash in 1981, both of which had seen the Peruvian military forces prevailing over the Ecuadorian military.
Most of the fighting of the Cenepa war took place around the Cordillera del Condor (Condor mountain range) and the headwaters of the Cenepa River (see map), a highland area covered with dense Amazonian jungle, inside a 78 km-long strip of Peruvian territory, where the process of border demarcation between Ecuador and Peru remained stalled since 1948 (see History of the Ecuadorian-Peruvian territorial dispute).
One of the outposts causing the dispute, called Tiwintza , came to symbolize the war because of the bitter clashes that took place around it, and the emotional importance that both sides attached to its possession.
In contrast to a similar but shorter clash that had occurred in 1981, also inside the undemarcated border area, the Ecuadorian Army and the Ecuadorian Air Force managed to come out of the conflict with what Ecuador considered a limited but emotionally significant tactical success, retaining control of the embattled outpost of Tiwintza and wresting local air superiority from the hands of the Peruvian Air Force until the signing of a ceasefire and the eventual separation of forces, supervised by the MOMEP, a multinational mission of military observers from the "guarantor" countries of the 1942 Rio Protocol: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the USA.
The Cenepa war ended up producing far-reaching consequences for relations between Ecuador and Peru. The military outcome of the brief conflict, vindicating the Ecuadorian armed forces after the disappointing results of the wars of 1941 and 1981, and by calling to the attention of the Peruvians the need for a resolution of a border dispute that they had so far been adamant in refusing to acknowledge, paved the way for a definitive settlement of the border issues.
Thus, in the aftermath of the war, both nations, brokered by the "guarantors" of the Rio Protocol, entered into a long and difficult negotiation process that concluded with the signing of a Peace Treaty in 1998, and the closing of the hitherto un-demarcated stretch of common border, deep in the Amazonian rainforest.
Following the Ecuadorian-Peruvian war of 1941, both countries had signed in 1942 a Peace Treaty known as the Rio Protocol. This treaty brokered by the USA, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, which became known as the "guarantors" of the peace settlement had the main purpose of defining the hitherto badly defined borders between Ecuador and Peru. The process of demarcation, begun in mid-1942, came to a halt in 1948, when populist Ecuadorian President Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra declared the Protocol impossible to implement in the area of the Cordillera del Condor, claiming inconsistencies between the instructions of the Protocol and the geographical realities on the ground, as shown by USAAF aerial photographic evidence brought forward in 1947.
Peru contested this view, stating that such discrepancies had already been solved in an arbitration that had taken place in 1945, and that all that had to be done was to close the border following the guidelines of the Protocol and the ruling of the 1945 arbitration, though still pushing for more land.
By the beginning of the 1950s, the situation had come to a deadlock. For the next 46 years, a 78 km-long strip of mostly unpopulated, and little explored territory, deep in the Amazonian rainforest and almost inaccessible by land, was left undemarcated, serving as a flashpoint for recurrent diplomatic and military crisis between Ecuador and Peru.
While Peru held to the view that the border in the undermarcated area ran along the heights of the Condor range, Ecuador insisted that there was no technical basis for considering that mountain range as the border between the two nations, hinting at the idea that the spirit of the Protocol, which had never mentioned the Condor range by name, would require the location of the border markers along the Cenepa river, immediately to the east of the range.
The Ecuadorian stance had a symbolic meaning of its own: the Cenepa river was a small tributary of the Maranon river, in turn a tributary of the Amazon river, to which Ecuador had always claimed the right for a sovereign access.
Events leading up to the war
Just as in the Paquisha Incident of 1981, the Cenepa War was caused by what both Ecuador and Peru saw as "infiltrations of foreign troops" and "setting up of foreign outposts" in the disputed area.
Tensions along the Condor range had been running high following a crisis that arose in July 1991 over the location of a Peruvian outpost called "Pachacutec" (Pachacutec Incident) inside a zone that, while 60 km north of the undemarcated area, had its own problems regarding the location of a single border marker (see map). Ecuador had protested over the location of "Pachacutec" since it was, according to Ecuador, inside Ecuadorian territory, and went on to set up an outpost of its own ("Etza") right in front of it.M. Herz, Ecuador vs. Peru: Peacemaking amid rivalry, Lynne Rienner, Boulder, CO, 2002, pp. 40. ISBN 1-58826-075-5 Google Print. Retrieved November 5, 2005. For Peru, there was no question that both "Pachacutec" and "Etza" were inside Peruvian territory. Although the crisis was defused the following month with the signing of a Pacto de Caballeros (gentlemen's agreement), by which both sides committed themselves to abandon these posts and separate their forces, the aftermath of the incident saw both countries accusing each other of violating the accord and reinforcing their military presence in the disputed area.
Still, for the next three years, tensions were kept at manageable levels. Apart from the uneasy encounters between rival patrols, which sometimes included brief exchanges of fire, most commonly every January (anniversary of the signing of the Rio Protocol), no serious incidents happened.
Then, at the end of 1994, a new crisis suddenly erupted, this time in the undemarcated border area proper, around the Condor range and the Cenepa headwaters.
"Base Sur" and a meeting of colonels
Peruvian accounts "Asi Empezo el Conflicto", Caretas magazine, Peru (in Spanish). Retrieved November 13, 2005. state that in November 1994, a Peruvian patrol, advancing through the Cenepa headwaters, was intercepted by an Ecuadorian patrol. Being told they had crossed into Ecuadorian territory, the Peruvians were escorted to the Ecuadorian outpost of "Base Sur", where the patrol was given supplies before continuing their journey. Afterwards, realizing Base Sur was actually in Peruvian-claimed territory,In 2001, General Vladimiro Lopez Trigoso, commander of the Peruvian 5th Jungle Infantry Division at the time of the war, said his troops had first found evidence that Ecuadorian troops were patrolling inside Peruvian-claimed territory in May 1994. See "Fujimori y Montesinos ocultaron invasion ecuatoriana", La Prensa newspaper, Panama, July 21, 2001 (in Spanish). Retrieved November 6, 2005. the Peruvians asked the Ecuadorians for a meeting of superior officers. The meeting, which the Peruvians date to December 20 and the Ecuadorians to December 12, took place in "Base Sur", between the commanders of the opposing battalions in the area.
According to Ecuadorian accounts,P. Cuvi, Al Filo de la Paz. Historias de la negociacion con el Peru. Dinediciones, Quito, 1999, p.55. ISBN 9978-954-18-X. during the meeting the Peruvian officer called to the attention of his Ecuadorian counterpart that the presence of Ecuadorian outposts in the headwaters of the Cenepa river constituted a violation of Peruvian territory, and that therefore the posts had to be abandoned and the troops moved back to the line of the Condor range. The Ecuadorian account of the meeting also states that the Peruvian officer went on to deliver an ultimatum: if the Ecuadorians did not abandon the area by the end of the week, the Peruvians would dislodge them by force.
After the meeting if not before it both Quito and Lima began to send reinforcements to the area, while further meetings between superior officers didn't manage to break the deadlock, apparently unable to reach a compromise solution.
It could be said that the Cenepa war had the same causes that brought about the Paquisha Incident of 1981, that is, the Peruvian discovery of Ecuadorian outposts on the eastern slopes of the Condor range, and below in the Cenepa valley, followed by the decision to dislodge the Ecuadorians from these locations by force.
The Ecuadorian Army, evidently bent on preventing any repetition of the "Pachacutec" incident, and to forestall any Peruvian attempt to reach to crests of the Condor range, had gone on to establish a defensive perimeter on the area, with two outposts, "Tiwintza" and "Base Sur", on the western side of the Cenepa headwaters, and one bigger outposts, "Coangos", on the high ground overlooking them from the north (see map).
In turn, the "guarantors" (Warrantors) military considered both Ecuadorian and Peruvian moves as offensive in character, due to the fact that, lacking official border markers, the Ecuadorian and Peruvian military had long since agreed to consider the line of the Condor range a de facto border, already considered broken by both countries since 1981.
Mobilizing for war
During the second half of December both sides began to hastily reinforce their military presence in and around the Cenepa valley area, laying down new minefields, preparing supply bases, and intensifying the patrolling activity.
By the end of December, profiting from its internal lines of communications, the Ecuadorian Army had managed to strengthen to a considerable degree its presence in the area, having deployed a number of units, foremost among them several Special Forces formations, as well as artillery and BM-21 multiple rocket launchers on the heights of the Cordillera del Condor. The entire Ecuadorian perimeter was covered by antiaircraft batteries and, most significantly, several teams carrying Soviet-made SA-16 Igla and British-made Blowpipe man-portable surface-to-air missiles.
Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE) was frantically getting up to operational status its fleet of subsonic and supersonic jet-engined aircraft, and adapting existing airfields in southeastern Ecuador to function as forward-deployment bases. For the Ecuadorian military, especially the Army and Air Force, the memories of the conflict of 1981 and its embarrassing outcome were still fresh, the lessons learned, and every measure was taken to avoid a similar outcome if and when the threat of war became a reality.
For the Peruvian military, the mobilization process was somewhat more problematic. The Cenepa valley area was devoid of any major roads, population centers, or helicopter bases on the Peruvian side. The Peruvian Army and the Peruvian Air Force (FAP), had to organize a veritable air-bridge to get reinforcements to the zone. Troops, heavy weapons, ammunitions and supplies had to be flown in first from the Peruvian hinterland and Lima to Bagua AFB, where they were transferred to light transport aircraft for the flight to the Ciro Alegria base. From this base, the final flight to the Peruvian forward bases in the Cenepa valley, mainly Observation Post 1 (PV-1), was made aboard Peru's Mil Mi-8 and Mil Mi-17 helicopter fleet, very often under poor weather conditions, with heavy rains and low clouds.T. Cooper, Peru vs. Ecuador; Alto Cenepa War, 1995, Air Combat Information Group (ACIG). Central and Latin American Database, 2003. Retrieved November 4, 2005.
Altogether, by the third week of January, both Peru and Ecuador had managed to deploy around 5,000 troops to the immediate vicinity of the disputed area.C. Faundes, El Conflicto de la Cordillera del Condor: Los Actores del Enfrentamiento Belico no declarado entre Ecuador y Peru. (pdf), Estudios de Defensa, Santiago de Chile, 2004 (in Spanish). Retrieved November 6, 2005.
With the coming of the new year, crisis loomed in the Cenepa valley. By January 8, the Peruvians had deployed four patrols near Base Sur. On the night of January 9, 1995, a Peruvian patrol found Ecuadorian soldiers inside the Peruvian territory where the Ecuadorian lines were infiltrated and momentarily was detained in looking them. Following the customary regulations for such incidents, the so-called Cartillas de Seguridad y Confianza (Guidelines for Safety and Mutual Confidence), the Peruvian personnel were delivered to the Peruvian base PV1 without further incidents.
Following the Ecuadorian account, a similar event took place two days later, on January 11, when another Peruvian patrol was found inside the Peruvian territory where the Ecuadorian lines were infiltrated at around 1:00 p.m. The Ecuadorian patrol attacks the Peruvians and a brief exchange of fire ensued, with the Ecuadorians dispersing through the jungle.
By the third week of January, the Peruvian high command had deployed to the Cenepa area what it considered to be enough troops for the task at hand, the clearing of any and all Ecuadorian troops on the Eastern side of the Cordillera del Condor. In retrospect, it is likely that Lima was expecting a repetition of the 1981 incident, unaware of the scale of the Ecuadorian deployment.
Thus, as a preliminary to the attack, on January 21 Peruvian helicopters began a series of reconnaissance and troop insertion flights on the rear of the Ecuadorian positions, which continued for the next two days. The next day, January 22, the Ecuadorians detected a Peruvian team of around twenty troops setting up a heliport to the north and rear of the Ecuadorian forward outposts.
The stepping up of the Peruvian air operations, combined with the surprise discovery of a Peruvian base on the rear of the Ecuadorian perimeter, compelled the Ecuadorian high command to take the initiative. That same day, a reinforced Special Forces company was ordered to advance undetected through the dense jungle and dislodge the Peruvian from the site, named by the Ecuadorians' "Base Norte". Significantly, the decision to act was made by the Commander-in-Chief of the Army before informing the President of the Republic, Sixto Duran-Ballen, and his National Security Council.
The Ecuadorian high command had by then interpreted the failure of the Commander in Chief of the Peruvian armed forces, General Nicolas de Bari Hermoza, to respond to calls from his Ecuadorian counterpart as a signal that the Peruvian military, with or without the knowledge of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, was preparing a military operation in the Cenepa valley.
The next day, the decision to act already taken, the Ecuadorian local commander informed his Peruvian counterpart that, from January 24 onwards, any Peruvian helicopter flying over Ecuadorian positions would be shot down.
On the morning of Thursday, January 26, 1995, after three days of march, the Ecuadorian Special Forces detachment arrived undetected at the Peruvian small outpost of "Base Norte" and launched a surprise attack on the unsuspecting garrison. A fierce firefight ensued, but the Peruvians were eventually forced to disperse through the jungle, leaving behind a number of dead soldiers, as well as weapons and supplies. The Cenepa War had begun.
Chronology of the War
The following days, the events unfolded in quick succession. Below is an incomplete chronological summary of the war.
January 24: Peru mobilizes troops towards Tiwintza, Ecuador engages in preparing the FAE (Ecuadorian Air Force), Ecuadorian fighter jets.
January 25: Peru militarizes a site in the Condor strip later known as Base Sur, thus provoking reaction by Ecuadorian forces, initiating the war.
January 26: Peruvian conscripts setting up a heliport behind the Ecuadorian outposts are attacked by Ecuadorian Special Forces, dislodging the Peruvians from the site; the Ecuadorians name the place Base Norte. Thus begins the shooting war.Col. (Ecuadorian Army) Luis Hernandez, La Guerra del Cenepa. Diario de un Comandante . Corporacion Editora Nacional, Quito, 1997/2000. ISBN 9978-84-235-7. Col. (Peruvian Army) Eduardo Fournier, Tiwinza con Z. Toda la Verdad (Tiwinza with a Z. The Whole Truth.) Col. Eduardo Fournier, Lima, 1995. (No ISBN).
January 27: Ecuador and Peru order general mobilization. Armored units are deployed to the Pacific coast border area, ready to act in case of a general war. Altogether, around 140,000 men were mobilized during the war.
January 28: At 7:45, the Peruvians launch the first ground assault against the Ecuadorian positions in the Cenepa headwaters. The attack is renewed at 1105, this time with helicopters providing suppressive fire. The Ecuadorians claim hitting a helicopter. At 1205, Peruvian Air Force (FAP) ground attack aircraft make their first appearance over the valley, but withdraw upon being informed of the presence of FAE interceptors in the area.
January 29: In a pattern that will continue during the next days, Peruvian forces launch multiple and simultaneous attacks all over the area, in an effort to off-balance the Ecuadorian defenses. The Ecuadorians fight back at Tiwintza, Cueva de los Tayos, Base Sur, and Coangos, and shoot down a Soviet-made Mi-8TV helicopter belonging to the Peruvian Army Aviation (AEP). EP-587 becomes the first confirmed kill for the Ecuadorian MANPAD teams on the ground. Aeroflight: World Air Forces - Ecuador Air Force history. Retrieved November 8, 2005. A second helicopter is reported as being hit. At the end of the day, Peru announces having captured three Ecuadorian strongholds as a result of the day's actions, which Ecuador goes on to deny.
January 31: After a 24-hours lull in the fight, the Peruvians resume their attacks against Tiwintza, Coangos, and Cueva de los Tayos. Ecuador and Peru reject an international appeal for an immediate ceasefire.
February 1: The assaults continue, now with strong artillery support. Peruvian A-37B ground attack aircraft appear over the battlefield and bomb Ecuadorian positions. The Ecuadorian base of Condor Mirador, in the summit of the Cordillera del Condor falls also under attack. A Peruvian patrol approaching Cueva de los Tayos hits a minefield and suffers severe losses.
February 2: During the day, the FAP carries out no less than twelve ground attack sorties, in support of the ground troops assaulting Cueva de los Tayos and Base Sur. FAE interceptors, still flying from bases too far north, near Guayaquil, appear too late to find any targets.
February 3: Ecuadorian Strikemasters and A-37B ground attack aircraft appear for the first time to bomb Peruvian positions.
February 6: The FAP begins to make use of its Canberra jet bombers to strike Ecuadorian positions. One Canberra is lost. Although the Ecuadorians claim having hit one Canberra with AA fire, the Peruvians claim it crashed into a mountain due to the bad weather conditions over the area.
February 7: In a bitter reminder of the dangers that the Cenepa valley pose for low-speed aircraft flying at low-altitudes, a FAP Mi-25 helicopter gunship is downed after being hit in quick succession by at least two probably three Strela shoulder-fired missiles. FAE A-37Bs, escorted by Kfir fighters, continue to attack Peruvian positions. One A-37B is hit by Peruvian AA fire, but manages to get back to base.
February 9: Heavy air activity. The FAP carries out no less than 16 ground attack sorties, throwing its fleet of Mirage 5Ps and Sukhoi Su-22 fighter-bombers into the battle. FAP Canberras carry out a night bombing mission.
February 10: Heavy air activity continues over the battlezone. During the morning, the FAP sends in A-37Bs and Su-22Ms to strike Ecuadorian positions. The FAE steps in. At 12:42, the Ecuadorian radars pick up five enemy targets approaching for another round of attacks. Two FAE Mirage F.1JAs and two IAI Kfir C.2s are sent to intercept the incoming aircraft. In the ensuing action an A-37B subsonic aircraft are shot down and one Peruvian Su-22 was shot down by antiaircraft fire while the other Su-22 had a fire in his jet-engine and this was the reason which it was lost.
February 11: Further Peruvian Special Forces reinforcements arrive at PV-1. As the ground war drags on, air activity over the area increases. Encouraged by the events of the day before, the Ecuadorian A-37Bs launch even bolder ground-attack missions on Peruvian positions. One FAE A-37B is hit by a Peruvian MANPAD, but the crew manages to fly it back to base.
February 12: Air operations continue. The Peruvians claim the destruction of one A-37B and one Kfir, both of them denied by Ecuador.
February 13: Peruvian forces launch powerful attacks against Coangos and Tiwintza, with heavy air support. One Peruvian Mi-8TV is lost to Ecuadorian fire. The Ecuadorians shot down another helicopter, probably a Mi-17, also denied by Peru. In the evening, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori appears before the cameras to announce information to the media of the taking of Tiwintza and total victory for Peru, information that was false information. **Information later recalled by the guarantors as false media**
February 1416: Combat continues all along the area.
February 17: In the presence of the four guarantor countries of the Rio Protocol , Ecuadorian and Peruvian diplomats sign a peace declaration in Brazil (Declaracion de Paz de Itamaraty), confirming a ceasefire, a separation of forces, a general demobilization, and establishing a "guarantors" peacekeeping force, the MOMEP , charged with supervising the separation of forces, taking over the posts of Tiwintza and Base Sur, and suggesting the limits for an eventual demilitared zone. Ecuador and Peru pledge themselves to begin talks on the "pending issues".
February 21: The first MOMEP observers arrive to the Ecuadorian rear base of Patuca, but confused fighting rages on all-day long, preventing the observers to reach the area of the conflict. Ecuador claims Peruvian helicopters are violating the cease-fire by flying over the Ecuadorian posts.
February 22: In a day that Ecuadorians refer to as "Black Wednesday", Peruvian forces launch a strong attack on Ecuadorian positions near Tiwintza. According to Ecuadorian sources, fourteen of their soldiers died that day, the worst in terms of casualties for the Ecuadorian Army during the war.
February 28: After more days of confusing skirmishes, Ecuador and Peru sign the Montevideo Declaration, "reiterating their commitment to proceed to an immediate and effective ceasefire.". Although minor incidents would continue all over the area during the next months, the Cenepa War is officially over.
By the beginning of March 1995, the MOMEP observers had entered the area and began to supervise the separation of forces. As per indicated in the Treaty of Itamaraty and the Declaration of Montevideo, the Ecuadorians began to withdraw all their units to the base of Coangos, while the Peruvians were to do the same to PV-1. From there, troops would be extracted according to a schedule implement by the MOMEP.
All combatants were withdrawn from the disputed area by May 5, 1995. A demilitarized zone came into effect on August 4 of the same year.
Ecuador and Peru went on to negotiate the final demarcation of the border, in a lengthy process marked by one crisis after another, with a total war almost erupting in August 1998. Finally, on October 26, 1998, in Brasilia, Jamil Mahuad, President of Ecuador, and Alberto Fujimori, President of Peru, along with the Presidents of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile; and a personal representative of the President of the United States of America, signed a Presidential Act, which proclaimed "the definitive resolution of the border disputes between the two nations".
In a decision that certain political sectors on both sides took as a setback, the Guarantors of the Rio Protocol ruled that the border of the undelimited zone was indeed the line of the Cordillera del Condor, as Peru had been claiming since the 1940s. While Ecuador had to give up its decades-old territorial claims to the eastern slopes of the Cordillera, as well as to the entire western area of Cenepa headwaters, Peru was compelled to give to Ecuador, in perpetual lease but without sovereignty, one square kilometer of its territory, in the area where the Ecuadorian base of Tiwintza focal point of the war had been located within Peruvian soil. The final border demarcation came into effect on May 13, 1999.
Casualties and material losses
Figures given for losses during the Cenepa War vary widely, especially regarding human casualties. Ecuadorian military sources put the casualties at 38 killed and 89 wounded. As of February 2005, an Ecuadorian Cenepa war veterans' association had a membership of 131 ex-combatants, some of them with long-term health disorders caused by the war.
ALDHU, a human rights NGO, has put the total number of mortal casualties for both sides at around 500. This figure that was also mentioned by Ecuadorian senior officers after the war, with the majority of losses corresponding to the Peruvians, reflecting the fact that, for most of the conflict, the Peruvians found themselves attacking well-protected Ecuadorian positions and subjected to continuous ambushes and well-aimed artillery and rocket fire from the heights of the Condor range.
The aircraft and helicopter losses mentioned above represent the losses acknowledged by each side during the conflict (due to enemy action or to accidents) as cited in the Air Combat Information Group Website. According to the same source, Peru may have lost up to 5 helicopters during the conflict, and Ecuador may have lost one attack helicopter in unclear circumstances. Faundes, Faundes. citing Ecuadorian sources, puts the total of Peruvian losses at 5 fixed-wing aircraft including one Navy maritime patrol plane and 4 helicopters. Both sources concede that Ecuador lost one AT-33A trainer in an accident outside the combat area.
The war left in its wake a number of problems for the small South American country. The Ecuadorian government estimates the four week-long war cost its economy some US $240 million. A period of recession followed the war, which compounded by other major economic shocks ended up producing a major economic and financial crisis in 1999, with the adoption of U.S. dollar as replacement for the sucre as national currency in 2000. (See Economy of Ecuador.)
Characteristics of the fighting in 1995
Several explanations have been brought forward to explain the outcome of the Cenepa conflict. Some of these can be briefly summarized here:
Logistics. Both during the buildup of forces and during the clashes of January and February, the Peruvian Army found itself at a relative disadvantage from a logistical standpoint. The fact that all reinforcements and supplies had to be flown in by helicopter from Ciro Alegria base, more than 110 km to the south, meant that, in general, the Ecuadorian forces went into combat better armed and supplied. Moreover, once the shooting war started, the Cenepa valley became a rather dangerous place for the slow and bulky Mil Mi-8 and Mil Mi-17 Peruvian helicopters, which besides their transport duties also carried out ground-attack missions.
Force Composition. Right from the very first clashes, the Ecuadorian Army committed Special Forces units all along the combat area. In addition to the paratroopers, the Ecuadorians sent into battle a number of "Iwia" detachments units composed of shuar volunteers from the nearby aboriginal communities, specialized in jungle combat and survival. Until the arrival of some elite counterinsurgency units from the south, the Peruvian forces initially committed to the battle were composed mostly of young and inexperienced conscripts, in many cases badly fed and clothed. While the arrival of veteran Peruvian elite units helped in the difficult jungle fighting, it also increased the number of atrocities both sides committed against enemy soldiers.
Terrain. In 1995, the Ecuadorian Army found itself fighting in terrain of its own choosing. From the heights of the Condor mountain range, the Ecuadorians had a commanding view the entire combat area. The Ecuadorian artillery -carefully camouflaged on the reverse slopes of the Condor range- could deliver precise and deadly fire upon attacking Peruvian troops time and again. By the same token, the Ecuadorian antiaircraft batteries and SAMs located on the heights made any helicopter low-level flight into the valley a rather dangerous proposition.
State of the opposing air forces at the outbreak of the crisis. It could be said that the war of 1995 came at a bad moment for the Peruvian Air Force. Traditionally one of the strongest air forces in Latin America, the economic crisis that had struck the nation in the 1980s had made a strong impact on the readiness of the FAP. At the beginning of January, 1995, with a crisis looming on the horizon, the FAP found itself in no shape for a major air war. Most of its fleet of modern Mirage 2000Ps interceptors, bought in the mid-1980s and backbone of the FAP, was grounded for lack of spare parts and proper maintenance due to lack of funds. Only three Mirage 2000Ps were immediately available for active operations. In the same situation was its fleet of Sukhoi Su-22M fighter-bombers, with some seven aircraft in flying conditions; the lack of preparedness even affected the Cessna A-37B subsonic counterinsurgency and ground-attack aircraft. Cooper. Although by the end of January the situation regarding operational aircraft had greatly improved, the crisis had probably left its impact on the FAP.
Ecuador had also passed through a period of economic crisis of its own, be that as it may, the FAE had managed to keep in operational status a sizeable part of its fleet of Mirage F.1JAs, IAI Kfir C.2s, and SEPECAT Jaguars, with perhaps some ten Mirages, ten Kfirs, and four or six Jaguars in serviceable conditions (approximate numbers). Thus, while smaller in terms of total number of planes, the FAE of January 1995 felt qualitatively capable of facing the FAP on more or less equal terms, in striking contrast to the situation during the crisis of 1981, where except for a small number of missions, the FAE had been kept on the ground armed and ready for immediate action, to be committed only in case of a full-fledged war, but allowing the FAE to enjoy total aerial superiority over the Cordillera del Condor due to tactically placed SAMS by the FAE, and units armed with British-made Blowpipe and Russian-made SA-16 MANPADs.
In any case, it is clear that circumstances had changed considerably since
the war of 1941.
B. Simmons, Territorial Disputes and Their Resolution: The Case of Ecuador and Peru (pdf), United State Institute of Peace (1999). Retrieved November 10, 2005.
G. Weidner G. Weidner, Operation SAFE BORDERS: The Ecuador-Peru Crisis (pdf), Joint Forces Quarterly (Spring 1996), U.S. National Defense University. Retrieved November 9, 2005.
G. Marcella, War and Peace in the Amazon: Strategic Implications for the United States and Latin America of the 1995 Ecuador-Peru War (pdf), Department of National Security and Strategy, U.S. Army War College (1995). Retrieved November 10, 2005. Article in Spanish. Retrieved November 16, 2005.
"Peru-Ecuador: Historia de 150 Anos de Conflicto", Adonde? Todas las Paginas del Peru, (1997), (in Spanish). Retrieved November 14, 2005. .
"Apuros con Polvora", Caretas magazine, Peru, (in Spanish). Retrieved November 11, 2005. (A Peruvian press view on the performance of Peru's political and military leaders during the war).
''http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_164.shtml "Central Latin American Database"]
History of the Ecuadorian-Peruvian territorial dispute
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