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EcuadorianPeruvian territorial dispute of 18571860

A territorial dispute between Ecuador and Peru took place between 1857 and 1860. The dispute began when Ecuador attempted to sell Amazonian land claimed by Peru in order to settle a debt with British creditors. When diplomatic relations between the two countries broke down, prior to the fragmentation of the Ecuadorian government into several competing factions, the Peruvian government ordered a blockade of Ecuador's ports in order to force the cancellation of the sale, and the official acknowledgement of Peruvian ownership of the disputed territories. By late 1859, power was divided between General Guillermo Franco, in the city of Guayaquil, and a provisional government in Quito headed by Gabriel Garcia Moreno. Peruvian President Ramon Castilla sailed to Guayaquil with several thousand soldiers in October 1859, and negotiated the Treaty of Mapasingue with General Franco in January 1860. The signing of the treaty indicated Ecuadorian compliance with all of Peru's demands; however, Franco's government was later defeated by forces commanded by Garcia Moreno and General Juan Jose Flores at the Battle of Guayaquil in September 1860. The Treaty of Mapasingue was subsequently disavowed by both the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Congresses, leaving the ongoing territorial dispute between the two countries unresolved.

The dispute is sometimes referred to as the EcuadorianPeruvian War of 1859, due to the temporary occupation of Ecuadorian territory by Peruvian forces. No fighting took place between the troops of the two countries within the duration of the dispute, although the Peruvian supporting forces pledged by Castilla in the Treaty of Mapasingue were involved in the later Battle of Guayaquil.


1857 and 1858: beginnings of conflict

The early years of the Republic of Ecuador were spent under debt moratorium on the international financial market. The debts had been incurred during the Gran Colombia era, and had been assumed by Ecuadorian President Juan Jose Flores in 1837. The debt owed to Great Britain, known as the Deuda inglesa ("English debt") exceeded 6.6 million pounds sterling, of which Ecuador owed 21.5 percent, or 1.4 million pounds. As the Ecuadorian government had done at least twice previously, President Francisco Robles Garcia attempted to settle this debt by transferring title over part of its territory;ref name=john59/> the lands would go to the creditors represented by the Ecuador Land Company, Ltd. In the Icaza-Pritchett treaty, signed on September 21, 1857 by the charge d'affaires of Britain, George S. Pritchett, and the Minister of Finance of Ecuador, Don Francisco de Paula Icaza "one million quarter sections in the Canton of Canelos in the eastern province on the banks of the Bobonaza River, reckoned from the point of confluence of that river with the Pastaza towards the west, at four reales per quarter section" were handed over for development by British colonists, while remaining under Ecuadorian sovereignty.

Relations between Ecuador and Peru had been cut off since 1855, but were reestablished by August 1857, when Juan Celestino Cavero, the newly appointed Resident Minister to Ecuador, arrived in Quito. On November 11, 1857, Cavero formally protested against the Icaza-Pritchett treaty, claiming Peru's right to the lands in Canelos as per the Real Cedula of 1802, as well as by principle of uti possidetis adopted as of 1810, and finally by general acts of jurisdiction and possession carried out by the Peruvian Government in those territories. The Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Relations replied to the Peruvian claims on November 30, defending Ecuador's right to deliver the territories based on its continued position that the Real Cedula did not confer political rights upon Peru and that consequently uti possidetis de jure did not appy. Peru continued to stand by its position of uti possidetis of 1810, and brought its case before the United States and Great Britain, which distanced themselves from the dispute.

The exchange of diplomatic correspondence continued into mid-1858; during this time, Cavero employed tactless and belligerent tactics against Ecuador, which were contrary to his instructions and proved detrimental to his goals. As a result, on July 30, 1858, the Chancery of Quito notified Cavero that relations between Peru and Ecuador were once again severed; he was then expelled from the country.

In October 1858, the Peruvian government retaliated by authorizing President Castilla to go to war with Ecuador if diplomatic mediation proved unsuccessful in resolving the territorial matter; on October 26, it ordered a blockade of Ecuador's ports. On November 1, 1858, the first Peruvian ship, the naval frigate BAP Amazonas, arrived in Ecuadorian waters; the blockade began in earnest on November 4, and was presided over by Rear Admiral Ignacio Mariategui.

Early 1859

By 1859, known in Ecuadorian history books as the "Terrible Year", the country was poised on the brink of a leadership crisis. President Francisco Robles, faced with the threat of the Peruvian blockade, moved the national capital to Guayaquil, and charged General Jose Maria Urbina with defending it. In the wake of this unpopular move, a series of opposition movements, championed by regional caudillos, were formed. On May 1, a conservative triumvirate, integrated by Dr. Gabriel Garcia Moreno, Pacifico Chiriboga and Jeronimo Carrion (Robles' vice president) formed the Provisional Government of Quito. On May 6, Carrion separated himself from the triumvirate, and formed a short-lived government in the city of Cuenca; he was deposed the next day by forces loyal to Robles.

General Urvina promptly set out for Quito to subdue Garcia Moreno and his movement. The Provisional Government was no match for Urvina, and fell in June. Garcia Moreno fled to Peru, where he requested the support of President Castilla; the Peruvian leader supplied him with weapons and ammunition to subvert the Robles regime. Believing that he had the support of the Peruvians, in July Garcia Moreno addressed a manifestopublished in a July edition of the Peruvian newspaper El Comercioto his countrymen, instructing them to accept Peru as their ally against Robles, despite the territorial dispute and blockading actions. Shortly afterwards, Garcia Moreno traveled to Guayaquil, where he met with General Guillermo Franco, General Commander of the District of Guayas and third in the Urvinista caudillo hierarchy, after Urvina and Robles. Garcia Moreno proposed that they disavow Robles' government and declare free elections. While Franco accepted, he also aspired to the presidency of the republic, and would prove to be willing to betray his country to satisfy his desire for power.

August-September 1859

As Garcia Moreno was trying to resurrect his movement, the mediation efforts of the Granadine Confederation and Chile had fallen through, with both countries accusing Peru for the failure. The Peruvians were playing to all sides in the civil dispute; on August 31, 1859, Castilla betrayed his commitment to Garcia Moreno, and came to an agreement with Franco that resulted in the end of the blockade against the port of Guayaquil. Several weeks later, the Mosquera-Zelaya Protocol, the result of the secret agreement between Peru and Cauca to take control of Ecuador, was signed in Popayan.

When he received word of Franco's allegiance with Castilla, Robles disavowed their treaty, and moved the capital once again, this time to Riobamba, where he handed over leadership of the government to Jeronimo Carrion. He and Urvina would leave the country for good within a fortnight. Meanwhile, Rafael Carvajal, a member of the defeated Provisional Government, invaded Ecuador from the border to the north; within the month, Carvajal had reestablished the Provisional Government in Quito. Finally, on September 17, Guillermo Franco declared himself Supreme Chief of Guayas; however, Babahoyo, Vinces and Daule sided with the Provisional Government. On September 18, an assembly in Loja named Manuel Carrion Pinzano military and civil chief of the province; the following day, Carrion Pinzano called a new assembly that established a Federal Government presiding over Loja, El Oro and Zamora. On September 26, Cuenca affirmed its allegiance to the Provisional Government.

With the domestic situation at its most tumultuous, and the Peruvian blockade of the rest of the Ecuadorian coast nearing the end of its first year in place, Castilla sought to take advantage of the circumstances to impose a favorable border settlement. On September 20, Castilla wrote to Quito to declare his support for the Provisional Government; ten days later, he sailed from Callao, leading an invasion force. While stopped over in the port of Paita, in Peru, Castilla proposed to the Ecuadorians that they form a sole government with which they could negotiate an agreement to end the blockade and the territorial dispute.

October 1859

Castilla and his forces arrived in Guayaquil on October 4; the next day, he met with Franco aboard the Peruvian steamer [[:es:Tumbes (goleta)|Tumbes]]. Castilla simultaneously sent word to Garcia Moreno that he wished to meet with him as well. Garcia Moreno set out for Guayaquil days later; on October 14, he arrived in Paita aboard the Peruvian ship Sachaca. When Garcia Moreno became aware that an agent of Franco's was also traveling aboard the ship, he became furious, and broke off the possibility of discussions with Castilla:

November-December 1859

Castilla reverted to negotiations solely with Franco's regime in Guayaquil; after several meetings, an initial deal was struck on November 8, 1859. Castilla ordered his troops, 5,000 strong, to disembark on Ecuadorian territory; the Peruvians set up camp at the hacienda of Mapasingue, near Guayaquil. Castilla did this to guarantee that Ecuador would fulfill its promises.Campos, p.81. In Volume V, Campos notes that "in effect the Generals Castilla and Franco celebrated an interview about the international matter, aboard the Peruvian steamer Tumbes, and as a result, on November 8 1859, the Peruvian army made up of 5,000 men disembarked and took up positions in the haciendas of Mapasingue, Tornero, and Buijo, in the immediacies of Guayaquil. The occupation was explained as a guarantee that Ecuador would fulfill its promises to Peru."

In Loja, Manuel Carrion Pinzano proposed that the four governments vying for control of Ecuador select a representative to negotiate a settlement with Castilla. On November 13, Cuenca was forced to recognize Guillermo Franco's government in Guayaquil; Franco thus became Supreme Chief of Guayaquil and Cuenca. The next day, Franco and Castilla met once again aboard the Peruvian ship Amazonas, and made arrangements for a definitive peace treaty. Carrion Pinzano's suggestion was not agreed upon until November 19, when dealings began between the governments of Quito, Guayas-Azuay and Loja, who agreed to delegate to Franco the task of negotiating with Peru, except on the matter of territorial sovereignty. According to the agreement signed between the governments, "the government of Guayaquil and Cuenca may not pledge to annex, cede or assign to any government any part of the Ecuadorian territory under any pretext or name." Franco, however, had been negotiation exactly such matters with Castilla; a preliminary convention regarding the territorial situation was signed between Franco and Castilla on December 4, for the purpose of releasing Guayaquil from occupation and re-establishing peace.

Garcia Moreno soon became aware of the treasonous pact agreed upon by Franco and Castilla. In an unsuccessful attempt to seek a powerful ally, Garcia Moreno sent a series of secret letters to the charge d'affaires of France, Emile Trinite, on December 7, 15 and 21; in them, he proposed that Ecuador become a protectorate of the European country. Fortunately for his cause, the agreement between Franco and Castilla had the effect of uniting the disparate governments of Ecuador against their new common enemy; El Traidor, the traitor Franco, who had betrayed them by dealing with the Peruvians on their terms.

1860: Treaty of Mapasingue

On January 7, 1860, the Peruvian army made preparations to return home; eighteen days later, on January 25, Castilla and Franco signed the Treaty of 1860, better known as the Treaty of Mapasingue, after the hacienda where the Peruvian troops were quartered. The treaty had as its object the resolution of the pending territorial debate. In its first article, it affirmed that relations would be re-established between the two countries. The matter of the borders was established in articles 5, 6 and 7, where the Icaza-Pritchett treaty was declared null, accepted Peru's position of uti possidetis, and allowed Ecuador two years to substantiate its ownership of Quijos and Canelos, after which time Peru's rights over the territories would become absolute if no evidence was presented. The treaty additionally nullified all prior treaties between Peru and Ecuador, whether with the latter as a division of Gran Colombia or as an independent republic. This constituted acknowledgement of the Real Cedula of 1802, which Ecuador had previously rejected.


At the time, a domestic upheaval against Castilla's government was brewing in Peru. Castilla promised Franco that he would back him as head of the "general government" of Ecuador, and supplied his forces with boots, uniforms, and 3,000 rifles. Castilla sailed for Peru on February 10, arriving in Lima bearing the Treaty of Mapasingue as a victory prize. His efforts to take Ecuador's territory for Peru would prove fruitless; in September 1860, Guillermo Franco's government fell to the Provisional Government of Quito's forces, led by Garcia Moreno and General Juan Jose Flores, at the Battle of Guayaquil, paving the way for the reunification of the country under the Provisional Government. The Treaty of Mapasingue was nullified by the Ecuadorian Congress in 1861, and later by the Peruvian Congress in 1863 during the government of Miguel de San Roman, on the grounds that Ecuador did not possess a centralized government when it entered into the treaty, and that General Franco was merely the head of a party or faction, as well as the fact that the new Ecuadorian government had disapproved the treaty. The Congress determined that the two countries should return to the status of casus belli of 1858. The long dispute thus produced no favorable result for Peru, and the ongoing territorial dispute between the two countries remained unresolved.

Further reading

Territorial Disputes and Their Resolution - The Case of Ecuador and Peru. United States Institute of Peace.

Interview with Peruvian President Fernando Belaunder Terry, Falso Paquisha Incident Caretas

Detailed information about the military actions in the Paquisha Incident

'' The 1995 Peruvian-Ecuadorian border conflict

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