Fourdays before taking office, Jamil Mahuad – who took office on August 10, 1998 -received from the military high command two pieces of news about the conflictbetween Ecuador and Peru that froze his blood: first, that in more than 10points from the border the troops of both countries were so close that they saweach other; and the second, that the military intelligence had discovered ameticulous plan of the Peruvians to invade the Ecuadorian territory on August14.
“I had eight days to avoid this tragedy … We were on the verge of total war,” he said.
Once exhausted diplomatic channels, Mahuad, who went from president-elect to acting president, had no choice but to resort to political negotiation, directly with his counterpart Alberto Fujimori.
That”presidential diplomacy,” as it is called, took hold for 77 days andten key meetings for peace to finally be signed on October 26, 1998, in Brazil.
The role of the guarantor countries, the predisposition to Fujimori’s dialogue and the brief but punctual references to the economic crisis that left him with the support of the Ecuadorians are essential in Mahuad’s testimony. Its version is part of the book Twenty years: In peace and in development, a compilation of articles commemorating peace, which will be presented this Wednesday in the halls of the Foreign Ministry, in Quito.
The book also includes a dozen other articles – among them former foreign ministers José Ayala and Francisco Carrión, and former president Osvaldo Hurtado – explained Ambassador Alejandro Suárez, editor of the publication.
The compilation comes to light after about three months of production. In a first phase, the 1,100 printed copies will be distributed. Then the content will be put into an open-access digital version, the diplomat said.
In Mahuad’s story, the weak economic condition in which Ecuador was located in 1998 and the instability and political division are pointed out, so going to a war would have meant compromising the future of several generations, says the former president. Peru, on its side, had a better economic situation and a consolidated political system.
Mahuadwas dismissed in January 2000, after losing the support of citizens andpolitical parties, amid a severe economic crisis. (I)