Two killed in Ecuador-Peru border conflict

On Oct. 24 residents of the Ecuadoran town of Arenillas, on the border with Peru, began a peaceful blockade of the Panamerican highway to demand that the Chacra-La Palma pedestrian border crossing be officially reopened to allow local commerce. Customs officials had closed the footbridge, arguing that it was being used for trade in contraband goods. Local authorities and residents in the neighboring town of Huaquillas, where the official border bridge is located, opposed the reopening of the footbridge.

On Oct. 29, police used tear gas and violence to break up the highway blockade. Arenillas neighborhood leader Jose Pardo Mendoza and Jonathan Solorzano were killed; at least 50 other people were treated for injuries, some caused by bullets and others by tear gas. Ten people with more serious wounds–including three Peruvians–were hospitalized across the border in Tumbes, Peru.

Arenillas mayor Karina Torres called the police action “brutal,” and said police destroyed the town’s hospital while pursuing demonstrators who had hidden there. “The surgery room was left unusable.” she said. Torres insisted that local authorities from Huaquillas instigated police and participated in the violence against unarmed protesters. Huaquillas mayor Manuel Aguirre claimed the Arenillas residents were armed with rifles and revolvers. (La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 30 from AFP; El Universo, Guayaquil, Oct. 30; Telam, Argentina, Oct. 30) On Oct. 30, Torres announced that calm had returned to Arenillas after the Ecuadoran government and the Ecuadoran Customs Corporation (CAE) pledged to reopen the border post. (EU, Oct. 30)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 5

See our last posts on Ecuador and Peru.