Peruvian troops were dispatched Friday to the wild jungle frontier with Ecuador after each country accused the other of cross-border attacks in the longdisputed area.
Ecuador’s president, charging the attacks were continuing, declared a national state of emergency and mobilization late Friday.
In a nationwide broadcast from Quito, capital of Ecuador, President Sixto Duran-Ballen said Peruvian forces attacked various Ecuadorean border positions and combat has been going on “all through the day.”
Peru and Ecuador fought a war in 1941 over their 1,000-mile border, and animosity has been strong ever since. The disputed area is a 50-mile stretch of a remote, junglecovered mountain chain called the Cordillera del Condor.
Peru charged late Thursday that an Ecuadorean helicopter had bombed one of its outposts.
But in his four-minute speech, Duran-Ballen denied Peru’s claim and charged Peruvian troops with launching an attack early Friday against the Lt. Hugo Ortiz border post. He blamed Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori for the fighting.
“The president of Peru has ordered the removal of our forces that occupy Ecuadorean territory, a fact that has resulted in conflicts of major magnitude,” Duran-Ballen said.
The Peruvian Foreign Ministry had no comment on Duran-Ballen’s charges.
The Ecuadorean Joint Chief of Staffs announced late Friday that fighting was continuing and that Peruvian troops had used mortars against Ecuadorean positions.
The military communique said Ecuadorean forces “remained firm in their positions and caused serious casualties to the aggressors.”
The head of the Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, was to travel today to Quito and Lima to try to calm the tensions. In a statement issued in Washington, the OAS said Gaviria talked to both presidents Friday by phone from Bogata, Colombia.
In Tumbes, a city 620 miles northwest of Lima, Peruvian troops were placed on alert and tanks were moved toward the border. The state-owned television station broadcast footage late Friday of troops in trucks headed toward the border from Tumbes.
Peru’s president met all day with the National Defense Council, and Foreign Minister Efrain Goldenberg received the ambassadors of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the United States.