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Peru-Ecuador War Explained

As humanitarian crisis worsens, U.S. President dodges criticism with unwavering support

By J.P. PragPublished 3 months ago 24 min read
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Map showing Ecuadorian territorial claims on Peru. Image and modified description courtesy of Haylli, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

October 7th (Lima, Peru) — In a joint press release, the United States Supervisors of Foreign Relations and Safety and Security announced a nearly $250 million sale of military-grade weapons and equipment to Peru to be used as part of the country's ongoing war effort with ModRE in Ecuador. This action takes place despite growing domestic and international criticism about how Peru has been conducting their retaliatory mission after ModRE paramilitary forces undertook a surprise storm attack across the border that resulted in the systematic slaughter, rape, and defilement of thousands of unprepared Peruvians and surrounding property. Hundreds of mostly civilians were also taken captive and are still being held within Ecuadorian territory.

The move comes just seven days after the President of the United States and Congress were unable to come to an agreement on the national budget, nor even any continuing resolution, resulting in the current government shutdown. Normally, a request of this magnitude to sell millions of dollars of armaments to a foreign nation would require a review and formal approval from the Legislative Branch. However, the Cabinet officials who oversee what are still officially know as the Departments of State (Foreign Relations) and Defense, Homeland Security, National Intelligence, and Veterans Affairs (Safety and Security) expressed that the Peruvians' professed needs constituted an emergency situation. With that declaration, the two argued, they had the legal right, delegated authority, and moral responsibility to make such a determination and simply inform all Representatives and Senators after the fact.

Members of Congress from both the Republican and Democratic camps were quick to condemn the administration for once again attempting to circumvent their jurisdiction, especially given the current enmity between them and the first unaffiliated candidate since George Washington to be elected to the highest office in the free world. Said one Senator who wished to remain anonymous:

It's not that me or members or my Party are against providing support to Peru. Far from it, actually! It's just that this President has done everything possible to make America and the rest of the world less safe. That's why I'm hoping my colleagues in the House will swiftly finish their investigation and pass Articles of Impeachment so that we can officially remove this fraud from office.

As indicated by the unidentified Senator's speech, the Peru-Ecuador war is hardly the only loggerhead between the White House and Congress. Most recently, despite the fact that Congress has been able to successfully pass several versions of the budget for the entire country, the President has consistently vetoed each and every one of them for not meeting specific demands. Ironically, the core component that the President wants is a 25% reduction in defense-related expenditures as a prerequisite for receiving a signature, something Congress has not been able to provide. Nevertheless, despite broad agreement on the overall architecture of the spending plan, no iteration has been able to attain the necessary two-thirds majority to override the President's veto. The only thing that seems to have widely united the members of Congress is the idea of impeaching and removing the President directly in order to get past this impasse. To that end, Representatives in the lower chamber have spent more time and effort on that front than anything else since the shutdown began at midnight on September 30th.

One person who is a notable proponent of removing the independent President—but would refuse any aid directed at Peru—is the often outspoken Luisa Morales (D-FL27). Morales is the first individual of Ecuadorian descent to be elected to the House of Representatives and zealously advocates for her homeland and people against what she considers unwarranted Peruvian aggression supported by tacit American allowances. Earlier this year and prior to this conflict, Morales was censured by her colleagues, including a plurality of fellow Democrats, for what was determined to be anti-Peruvian and Peru-phobic remarks on social media. Responding to the admonishment on the floor of the Capitol Building, Morales said at the time:

You don't know what it's like to grow up under the oppressive regime of the Peruvians. We were a poor, working class family who wasn't involved politically with anything, and yet they still kept us under constant fear for our lives. The Peruvians could show up any time, for no reason, and they had no issue killing children like me. That's why, when I was six years old, my parents sold everything we had and fled with me and my siblings to the United States. To this day, Peru occupies the ancestral lands of my people, regularly committing a genocide against those who remain in order to satisfy their colonial-settler project.

These talking points were eerily similar to those espoused by the Ecuadorian Resistance Movement, colloquially known by their Spanish acronym ModRE. The United States, Canada, the European Union, and other aligned partners consider the entirety of ModRE to be a terrorist organization. On the other hand, places like Mexico and Panama only label the military wing of ModRE to be illegal while acknowledging the political faction as legitimate. Then there are neighboring and regional countries like stalwart U.S. ally Brazil as well as more like Bolivia, Venezuela, and Columbia that have declared that ModRE in all its forms represents a legitimate method of resistance against what they term as "criminal Peruvian behavior". Despite this rhetoric, Venezuela has played a pivotal role in negotiations between Peru and ModRE, which has resulted in the release of some of the hostages. Further, Columbia has historically worked with Peru to control all land, sea, and air borders with Ecuador, thus maintaining what some have termed a "collective punishment in the form of a blockade against all innocent people" living there, no matter their affiliation with ModRE or lack thereof.

Notwithstanding Representative Morales's contentions, the contemporary conditions on the ground in Ecuador and Peru did not exist when she was a child, nor can any assertion by her or ModRE be backed up with a more robust reading of history in totality. For instance, competing territorial claims can be traced back to 16th century, and perhaps even earlier. As European overseers began to withdraw from the area in the late 19th and early 20th century, the countries that would become Ecuador and Peru seemingly inherited these entitlements, adopting them as key characteristics of their nationalistic and ethnic identities. Unsurprisingly, this eventually led to open warfare, most notably in 1940s and 1980s. In the 1990s, an international coalition led by the United States came together to pressure the two nations to reach an agreement and end the cycle of violence and retaliation. The 1998 Peace Accord set up a demilitarized zone with a demarcation line acting as de facto borders. It also established several civil communication and cooperation mechanisms in fields like environmentalism, energy, trade, and taxes.

As the years went on, it seemed like the issues were—for the most part—reconciled, especially from the Peruvian perspective. There were always fringe groups among both countries that sought to reopen old wounds. More poignantly, claims of unfairness were often shouted by Ecuadorians, reaching even the top echelon of government. Despite these loud and oftentimes inciting voices, the peace mostly held with only minor occasional dust-ups and clashes. Peru and the rest of the world moved on and pretty much dismissed some concerning signs, becoming complacent in the idea that they were beyond serious challenge.

In the background, though, things were simmering. Most significantly was how the conflict between the two peoples were being taught in schools. A 2000 study by the American Sociological Association (ASA) found that while both countries presented rather one-side arguments to their young pupils, the Peruvians discussion of the entire ordeal was treated as more a footnote in their past while the Ecuadorians dedicated a whole unit called the "History of Borders" with what they described as the sacrifices they had been forced to accept under extreme duress. Over the years, the anti-Peruvian themes from these lessons were integrated into other topics, even wildly different subjects like math and science. While there have always been rumors of Ecuador indoctrinating their children into a culture of unbridled hate against the Peruvians, during Peru's offensive their army has uncovered materials showing how ModRE used even supposedly benign outings like summer camps as an opportunity to teach the next generation to forfeit their own lives in pursuit of eliminating Peruvian ones. In other words, the Peruvian government insists, ModRe and Ecuador value butchering Peruvians over developing themselves and their own country, or living a peaceful life and sustaining a neighborly coexistence.

Beginning around the early 2020s, sectarian violence began to engulf Ecuador. Gangs running illicit drugs from South American to the rest of the planet took over large swaths of land and brazenly committed murder without reprisal. During the 2023 election cycle, eight politicians were assassinated, including a presidential candidate. While there was hope for change when Daniel Noboa took over the remainder of disgraced chief executive Guillermo Lasso's term after the latter was ousted from office on alleged corruption charges, things did not readily improve. Instead, the deteriorating situation worsened, such as when in January 2024 masked gunmen wantonly took over a television station during a mid-afternoon newscast. After this occurrence, Noboa attempted to crack down on these criminal bands, but all his government's efforts proved frustratingly ineffective and only led to more resentment from within the populace— especially after Prosecutor César Suárez, who was investigating these events, was himself targeted and killed. Although it cannot be said that this was the exact moment when Ecuador began its societal shift, it underscores a key milestone. Many historians trace this point in time as the impetus for when various marginalized, populist, and ethnocentric ideologies began to merge together and eventually become what is now known as ModRE, a movement that specifically blames Peru for all the tribulations and bloodshed seen in Ecuador. Over the course of several local and national election cycles, the people of Ecuador supported ModRE so much that the group was able to take unilateral control of the 137-member National Assembly (Asamblea Nacional) and pretty much all other elected and appointed government positions. Essentially, ModRE became Ecuador.

It cannot be understated how difficult this achievement was. The Constitution that Ecuador adopted in 2009 was specifically designed to prevent any single Political Party or portion of the country from being able to accumulate too much power, but ModRE's messaging cut through those safeguards and granted them absolute rule. At first, while Peru and other nations looked warily on, ModRE claimed that they were only interested in providing a better life for the Ecuadorian people. Throughout their first couple of years in charge, though, there were brutal purges against real and perceived political opponents, a waylaying of personal freedoms, and—most of all—fierce charges against Peru. This came to a head when Ecuador launched a series of rocket and missile attacks into Peruvian territory. As with the current war, those projectiles did not just reach the border areas, but went as far as the center of the country to the capital Lima. Some even flew towards southern resort areas like Tacna, far from anywhere that ModRE could seemingly justify as "stolen Ecuadorian land".

Following these attacks, Peru put in place the aforementioned blockade against Ecuador and quietly enlisted cold-peace ally Columbia to do the same with the borders it shared with Ecuador to the north. Over the years, there have been several skirmishes and rounds of month-long wars as the economic and humanitarian situation continued to deteriorate in Ecuador. With each one, ModRE could more easily point a finger at Peru and highlight how the Peruvian cordoning off of the country was the precursor to all their internal problems. Ultimately, a state of emergency was declared in Ecuador and all elections were suspended, leaving ModRE as the only option for secretarial administration. Nevertheless, despite no formal vote, polls have shown that ModRE not only maintains their initial wide support, but have actually grown it. Results consistently show that ModRE has between 70% to 90% of the population of Ecuador behind them, even during the current engagement. Some hawkish members of Peru's government have even suggested that this means the people of Ecuador are not really innocent bystanders, but are actually full-throated supporters and complicit in all of ModRE's actions.

In spite of these recriminations, it is ModRE's public relations campaigns and propaganda asking for sympathy, understanding, and support against "unprovoked attacks from Peruvian occupiers" that have spread across the rest of the globe, resonating especially with younger and more liberal-leaning audiences. Even before the present breakout of hostilities, there were regular protests and quarrels at college and university campuses. People of Peruvian descent have documented pervasive anti-Peruvian sentiment and language, including by their professors and the administration that were ostensibly supposed to protect them from hate. Responding to comments by Representative Morales that mirrored what has been heard at these grounds for higher education, the U.S. President had told the singular reporter allowed to meet in the Oval Office that week:

Have you read ModRE's charter? It doesn't call for the establishment and preservation of an independent, free, and democratic Ecuador, nor for the protection of the Ecuadorian people. Contrarily, their entire platform says that Peru should not exist, and that the Peruvian people are not real and should be fully expelled from the vicinity, if not completely exterminated from anywhere on Earth. For them, this isn't a question of if Ecuador should be able to reclaim some land they gave up to Peru in the past; this is a call for the murder and genocide of the Peruvian people and a complete denial of the Peruvians' right to live both in their modern and ancestral homeland.

Still, it cannot be denied that the United States has had some hand in how Peru and Ecuador have developed over the past hundred years or so. America has supplied vast amounts of arms to Peru, including many that have been linked to what opponents allege are human rights violations. Adversaries of these transfers of equipment, training, and no-cost grants and loans say there is a complete lack of transparency around how the taxpayers' money is being used in Peru. Meanwhile, the United States has provided the poorer people of Ecuador just a fraction of the aid granted to Peru, and specifically only in non-lethal paraphernalia.

While the U.S. President has tried to hold Peru to some level of accountability, it is clear to many concerned groups that under this administration that nothing will change for the Ecuadorian people either during or after this war. Some factions that helped bring the extant occupant of the White House to power are threatening to withhold support in the next election—should the President's reign survive this or a future impeachment attempt. Notably, these pronouncements have come from community leaders in large Ecuadorian enclaves; places like New York, New Jersey, and Louisa Morales's own Florida. When asked about this, the President scoffed and said that they were free to vote for whoever they wanted, but that an attitude like that would probably bring about the rule of a Republican challenger that has specifically said that they want to ban all Ecuadorians from being able to immigrate to America.

However, that is not how the Ecuadorians and their supporters in the United States and elsewhere see things as progressing. For them, it is simply a question of the number of people who have been killed. When ModRE attacked Peru, they were able to murder nearly 4,000 people, the majority of them civilians. Yet, during the counterattack and subsequent invasion and occupation of parts of Ecuador, just under 190,000 Ecuadorians have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands more have been injured or are missing. To put these values in perspective, Peru lost around 0.01% of their total population while Ecuador has seen over 1% of theirs already slain, with the pile of bodies growing daily. This hundred-fold in casualty numbers has led many—including relatively supportive world leaders—to say that Peru's response has been disproportionate and unnecessarily cruel to meet their goals. Every day, there are calls for an immediate ceasefire and the allowance of more aid into Ecuador. When asked about this topic at a recent event, the U.S. President vehemently protested the comparison, saying in part:

First of all, the number of deaths is Peru is not higher from lack of trying. ModRE is indiscriminately lobbing bombs towards civilian centers and infrastructure, trying to kill as many Peruvians as they can. To be clear, this is no different than ModRE's usual modus operandi; they don't care how many innocent people have to die, even their fellow Ecuadorians. They use their own people as human shields.

During Peru's invasion of Ecuador, they have made similar assertions and provided evidence showing that ModRE has employed hospitals, schools, houses of worship, family homes, and even United Nations' facilities as bases for operation, weapons storage, and attacks. When Peru released a video showing how U.N. buildings and materials had been co-opted by ModRE for their own purposes, the U.S. President reacted with what could only be described as glee. During the Inauguration Ceremony on January 20th of this year, the recently installed leader of the free world announced ten Executive Orders—what immediately became known as The Ten Pronouncements—including the fifth one having the United States wholly withdraw from the U.N., thus dooming the international institution into collapse. One of the core arguments the chief executive offered was because the President felt that the U.N. had provided "material support" to terrorist organizations and state sponsors of terrorism in the past, and thus the administration was compelled by law to act. Peru's presentations have seemingly provided additional fodder for the President's assertions, bolstering the administration's original claims and reasoning.

There are other rationales, however, that the U.S. President highlighted as key to the lopsided nature of the death-toll. Due to the almost constant real and perceived threat of aggression from ModRE, Ecuador, and others in the region—as well as historical massacres faced by large swaths of Peruvian population centers the world over—Peru decided to heavily direct their resources towards defensive capabilities. Partially, this entailed the development of extremely advanced anti-ballistic technology that can spot and eliminate aerial threats, including drones that may be armed or set on suicide missions. Without these measures in place and the removal of Peru's civilian residents from border areas, the mortality rate would undoubtedly be much larger. The Peruvian government describes their approach as an "investment in life".

This stands in stark contrast to ModRE which has allegedly embezzled and used international donations of money and supplies the Ecuadorian government has received over the years in order to bolster ModRE's own war machine, including the construction of underground tunnels. These funds were supposed to go towards civilian infrastructure projects and provide food, water, and medicine to the Ecuadorian populous, but ModRE has apparently siphoned off almost all of it for their own purposes. If Peruvian intelligence is to be believed, an even larger portion has ended up in the bank accounts and vacation mansions of the leaders of ModRE, making them billionaires off of what was supposed to be charity for the Ecuadorian citizenry. All of these actions, corruption, and waste have made Ecuadorians much more vulnerable in general, and ostensibly to the Peruvian assault. Expounding on an evaluation of the situation, the U.S. President had said:

The numbers being produced by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health are suspect to begin with since they are controlled by a terrorist organization, but for the sake of argument, let's say we believe them. Of the 190,000 claimed dead in Ecuador, how many of them were direct combatants? I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say only 25% were militants, leaving the rest as civilians, something like 140,000. Yes, an extraordinarily high number, and one we have expressed to all parties that we'd like to see reduced through all reasonable methods. Unfortunately, because ModRE has embedded their military framework within civilian strongholds, it's made those locales legitimate targets. More so, Ecuador's missiles are very inaccurate and poorly designed. Our analysis has shown that more than 20% are falling short within Ecuador and even hitting structures like their own hospitals—which many news-sources erroneously attributed to Peru. So I ask you, of those 140,000 so-called civilians in Ecuador who have died during this conflict, how many of them were killed by their own errant government? You don't know, yet for some unbeknownst reason, Peru is expected to shoulder all of the blame.

With Peru showing no signs of being willing to relent and the U.S. President firmly in their corner, local officials have taken it upon themselves to wade into international politics instead of focusing on the provincial issues for which they were elected to manage. This has caused rifts not only among community members who feel their own representatives are turning against them, but even within families. Our reporters spoke to one person of Peruvian descent who said that they have a non-Peruvian relative who serves on their city council. This individual—who wished to remain unidentified so as to try to preserve some level of harmoniousness within their familial relationships—lamented that their own relative did not bother coming to them to discuss the situation in Peru and Ecuador before voting on what they deemed "an anti-Peruvian resolution that completely ignores all of ModRE's crimes against humanity; most especially and hypocritically the rape and sexual assault against Peruvian women." While they are not willing to confront their family member due to fear of creating a rift with everyone else in their lives, they have quietly decided to no longer speak with them. Despite resolving to remain silent, their seething was quite evident as they told our reporters, "It's #MeToo, unless you're from Peru."

Another person of Peruvian descent was equally perturbed while discussing a State Senator who has been posting inflammatory remarks against Peru and in favor of Ecuador on social media. They questioned if this person knew anything about Peru aside from Machu Picchu, noting they had actually been to Peru and many of its lesser-known cultural landmarks such as the Chachapoyas Cloud Forests, the Gocta Cataracts, the Kuelap Fortress, the Q'eswachaka Rope Bridge, and more. In particular, this person noted how they had traversed along the Rio Protocol Line that demarcates the border between Peru and Ecuador and thus had an understanding of the reality of the situation on the ground that most other detached people completely lacked. Further, they pointed out that if the elected official—who self-identifies as "queer"—actually went to Ecuador, they would be "thrown off a rooftop" for being what ModRE terms an "aberration against nature". Asking for the resignation of the State Senator they claimed they previously vehemently supported, they asked that their delegate at least tone down their rhetoric "before you once again stab me in the heart, or some integrista is inspired by your words and does it for you."

The U.S. President has been equally distraught by stories like these, as well as the rising number of incidents—violent or otherwise—in America and the rest of world related to anti-Peruvian and anti-Ecuadorian sentiment. When presented with another town passing a resolution calling for Peru to stop their campaign, the leader of the free world chastised:

Why is everyone asking Peru for a ceasefire? Why don't they ask ModRE for one first? ModRE is still holding hundreds of civilians captive and refusing to allow the Red Cross to see them and treat their wounds, or give them necessary medication that they've been deprived of for months. These are women, children, elderly, and citizens from other uninvolved countries, including our own—yet ModRE refuses to budge. Instead, rockets fly from Ecuador to all parts of Peru on a daily basis and ModRE threatens that if Peru does not meet its demands that the "hostages will not return alive".

Not everyone asking for a ceasefire is an Ecuadorian or one of their core supporters, though. Peruvian peace-groups like No en Mi Nombre and Paz Ahora have staged demonstrations demanding that the United States end all support for Peru and pursue a legal recourse against the Peruvian government. Dismissing these groups out of hand, the U.S. President noted that it was possible to find "black people who supported slavery" and "Jews who worked for the Nazis". More so, the commander-in-chief pointed out:

I would be surprised if these firebrands amounted to more than a tiny percentage of Peruvians. Frankly, if they represented 5% of their people, I would be shocked. Despite this, the media treats them as if they are an equal proportion to the 95% who support Peru fighting for their very existence. Of course, this isn't the only bias we see from news-makers They constantly talk about the millions of people displaced in Ecuador by Peru's counteroffensive, but they don't even mention that the exact same situation is happening in Peru without any international aid mechanism to buoy them. Guess what? Peruvian children also deserve to be able to be able to go to school without having to worry about how close they are to a bomb shelter.

While some have charged that, based upon declarations like these, that the U.S. President is the one who is actually prejudiced against Ecuador and Ecuadorian people, it would be difficult to find concrete examples to back that up. On the contrary, back at the State of the Union this past February, the chief executive had proposed working with Ecuador to "build a space elevator on Volcán Cayambe" as part of a larger goal of making outer space more accessible and environmentally friendly. This particular proposition was made as a demonstration of a new type of internationalism that the White House intended to pursue in the wake of making the United Nations defunct. In retort, the President argued for a higher-level evaluation of current events:

While Peru is not exempt from criticism, there is an outsized expectation put upon them and Peruvians in general that is not demanded from anyone else. What is happening between Peru and Ecuador is hardly the only conflict going on in the world right now, but why is it getting so much disproportionate attention? I'll tell you: it's because they are Peruvians. The fact that people expect Peru to act in a different way, that they hold Peruvians to a higher standard than any other country or people on Earth, is the very definition of anti-Peruvianism.

Disclaimer: This piece is a work of mixed fiction and nonfiction elements. With the fiction elements, any names, characters, places, events, and incidents that bear any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. For the nonfiction elements, no names have been changed, no characters invented, no events fabricated except for hypothetical situations.

The designation, background, and details for the character Luisa Morales were partially developed by Artificial Intelligence. All other components presented in or as a part of this story were researched, cultivated, and crafted by human hands and minds.

J.P. Prag is the author of several works, including the speculative political thriller 254 Days to Impeachment: The Future History of the First Independent President, available at booksellers worldwide. Learn more about him at www.jpprag.com.

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About the Creator

J.P. Prag

J.P. Prag is the author of "Compendium of Humanity's End", "254 Days to Impeachment", "Always Divided, Never United", "New & Improved: The United States of America", and "In Defense Of...", and more! Learn more at www.jpprag.com.

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