Leticia Dispute

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Leticia Dispute

The Leticia Dispute was a conflict in the 1930s between Colombia and Peru over control of the Amazon River town of Leticia and surrounding territory (about 4,000 square miles). Under the Salomón-Lozano Treaty (1922), meant to settle a long-standing boundary dispute, the border between the two countries was set at the Putumayo River, except for the Leticia Quadrilateral or Trapezium, which stretches south from the Putumayo to the northern bank of the Amazon. The treaty was unpopular among Peruvians, who had founded Leticia in 1867, had recently controlled rubber extraction in the region, and still had economic interests there.

On September 1, 1932 an armed force of about two hundred Peruvian civilians and soldiers seized Leticia and expelled the Colombian residents. On October 21, Peruvians captured Tarapacá, a Colombian town on the Putumayo. President Luis Sánchez Cerro of Peru did not authorize the action at Leticia but was pressured by public opinion to use the incident to secure revision of the 1922 treaty. Colombia's president, Enrique Olaya Herrera, was determined to regain Leticia and dispatched an expedition of a thousand men and five ships, which reached the disputed area by sailing to Pará, Brazil, and thence up the Amazon. The Colombians also hastily assembled an air force of U.S.- and European-made planes piloted mainly by German employees of the Colombian airline SCADTA. Early in 1933 the Colombians recaptured Tarapacá and took the Peruvian fort at Güepí, also on the Putumayo. Further hostilities were averted by the assassination of Sánchez Cerro in April and the accession of Oscar Benavides, who was more amenable to the return of Leticia to Colombia. This finally was accomplished on June 19, 1934 through the efforts of the League of Nations and the mediation of Afrânio de Melo Franco, foreign minister of Brazil. The 1934 agreement ended the conflict, but Leticia remained isolated from the rest of Colombia and the government presence weak, though it developed close ties with the neighboring border towns of Tabatinga, Brazil, and Santa Rosa, Peru. As a result, by 2000 the region had become a center for trafficking in narcotics and other illegal goods. In 2005 the municipality of Leticia had a population of nearly 32,500.

See alsoAmazon River; Benavides, Oscar Raimundo; Drugs and Drug Trade; Melo Franco, Afrânio de; Olaya Herrera, Enrique; Sánchez Cerro, Luis Manuel.


Basadre, Jorge. Historia de la República del Perú. 6th ed. Vol. 14. Lima: Editorial Universitaria, 1968.

Donadio, Alberto. La Guerra con el Perú. Bogotá: Planeta, 1995.

Restrepo, Juan Camilo, and Luis Ignacio Betancur. Economía y conflicto Colombo-peruano. Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2001.

Wood, Bryce. The United States and Latin American Wars, 1932–1942. New York: Columbia University Press, 1966.

                                        Helen Delpar

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Leticia Dispute

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