By Urvashi Valecha
Diplomatic ties between Ecuador and Peru have been strained following the Huaquillas Linear Park project which involves building a wall that runs along the Ecuador-Peru border. The move fuels a wider controversy about walls between neighbouring countries, sparked by U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to “build a wall” along the Mexican border.
What does the project entail?
Ecuador shares a 930 mile (1,500 km) border with Peru, its only neighbour country besides Colombia, to the North. The wall is being built along the River Zarumilla that separates the Ecuadorian city of Huaquillas with the Peruvian Aguas Verdes and it would comprise almost 25,000 square meters of the border area, according to the newspaper El Universal.
The project in Ecuador aims at building commercial areas, green spaces, and recreational activities stating that it will reduce contraband. Meanwhile, people living in the frontier territory on both, the Ecuadorian and Peruvian sides have organised protests against the construction of the wall. The reason being that it would limit their “cross-border integration”.
History of rivalry
Peru and Ecuador have had a history of rivalry and wars over the disputed territories of Mainas, Tumbes, and Jaen along their borders. The rivalry can be dated back to the 19th century, after decolonisation by Spain, following which the countries had frequent conflicts and wars over their borders.
The Cenepa war in 1995 was a localised military conflict over disputed territories where both the nations claimed victory leaving scope for another war. After arbitration, Peru and Ecuador signed a Peace Accord in 1998 with USA, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil as guarantors. The countries then remarked their boundaries and the region has been relatively peaceful since then.
What does a border wall mean for the two countries?
Smuggling of gasoline takes place from Ecuador to Peru because gasoline is more expensive in Peru. As a result, Ecuador is losing out on its limited gasoline stock. The building of the wall also poses environmental threats since as it could also disrupt the flow of water in a canal that separates the two countries. It can cause frequent flooding in the Peruvian cities.
Peru claims that the wall violates the terms of the Peace Agreement. It clearly states that both the countries are required to localise 10 meters of open space on both sides of the Zarumilla Canal. The Foreign Ministry of Peru has called for an urgent bilateral meeting with Ecuador. These are a few conflicting interests that could be discussed at the bilateral meeting.
Not a full-proof plan
The rivalry of Ecuador and Peru is said to have ended in 1998 after the Peace Accord was signed. Ecuador’s Minister of Urban Development, Maria Alejandra Vicuna said, “Everything is subject to revision to reach agreements.”
Ecuadorian officials, on the other hand, claimed that free transit of people can take place once the pedestrian bridge is built. Since, it’s a massive developmental project, building a pedestrian bridge is going to take time, that will halt the exchanges of population in the frontier territory. Open trade around the border, which involves its residents is bound to get affected. The only viable options include looking for longer, expensive alternate routes or halt trade till the pedestrian bridge is constructed.
A threat to long-standing peace
Looking at the history of the dormant rivals, it is evident that the two countries haven’t been able to move past their differences without arbitration from other countries. Both Peru and Ecuador have also had a history of not keeping their citizens’ interest in mind, at times, while making decisions. This does add to the uncertainty of what the bilateral meeting could bring forth.
A failure in negotiations between the Peru and Ecuador with respect to the wall can contribute towards fueling a conflict between the two countries after more than 18 years of peace.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius