Country Listing

Peru Table of Contents




Campesinos from Pomacocha, near Ayacucho, whose mayor was recently assassinated, meet with an agronomist.
Courtesy Inter-American Development Bank

External Threats

Historically, the major security challenges to the country and its military were external in nature, usually involving issues of borders and territorial disputes. Peru engaged in more foreign wars after independence than any other Latin American country, although most occurred in the nineteenth century (Colombia, 1828; Argentina, 1836-37; Chile, 1836-39; Bolivia, 1827-29, 1835, and 1841; Ecuador, 1858-59; Spain, 1863-66; Chile, 1879-1883). Most of the nineteenth-century conflicts went badly for Peru. The most disastrous was the War of the Pacific against Chile. In many ways, this conflict could be considered more significant than the gaining of independence, given the war's impact on the development of present-day Peru.

In the twentieth century, the Peruvians, as of late 1992, had engaged in two wars and two significant border skirmishes. In the Leticia War of 1932-33, named after the Amazonian city, Peruvian army and naval units were unable to keep Colombia from holding onto territory originally ceded by Peru in 1922 in the Salomón-Lozano Treaty. The 1941 war with Ecuador, however, was a major success for Peruvian forces. Peru had established the first paratroop unit in the region and used it to good effect; the first combat in the hemisphere involving airborne troops resulted in the capture of Ecuador's Puerto Bolívar on July 27, 1941. By the end of the month, when military actions ceased, Peru held Ecuador's southernmost province of El Oro and much of the disputed eastern jungle territory that had been part of Ecuador since the 1830s. The Rio Protocol of February 1942 awarded to Peru some 205,000 square kilometers of previously disputed Amazon territory.

Ecuador repudiated the Rio Protocol in 1960, and border incidents occurred periodically thereafter. None were as serious as the January 1981 incursion by Ecuadorian troops that led to a partial mobilization of forces by both countries. The dispute was resolved, much to Ecuador's displeasure, by the original guarantors of the Rio Protocol--the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Periodic incidents since have indicated that problems remain, particularly along a seventy-eight kilometer stretch of the border known as Cordillera del Condor, which was never marked off under the terms of the Rio Protocol. Tensions between Peru and Ecuador increased in 1992 after Ecuadorian troops were alleged to have crossed the border in July in a section that had been marked (a charge that Ecuador denied). However, urgent conversations between the two governments led to an interim agreement in October in hopes of avoiding a new border crisis.

This continuing border disagreement combined with the lingering bitterness over the loss of Peruvian territory to Chile in the south and the coup that brought the Chilean military to power in September 1973. The coup was followed by major increases in military spending by Chile and an aborted effort to give Bolivia access to the Pacific through former Peruvian territory. Concern over these two developments contributed to Peru's decision to continue to mass most of its military forces near the northern and southern borders, even as domestic insurgency increased through the 1980s. Peru also mounted a diplomatic initiative with Bolivia in 1991-92 to open up a trade corridor for Bolivia to the Peruvian coast, with special free port access to the coastal city of Ilo. This was viewed as another effort by Peru to defuse border issues so as to be freer to pursue the internal security threat.

Data as of September 1992