Sixto Durán Ballén, who as president of Ecuador led the country in a monthlong border conflict with Peru in 1995, the last war in the Americas to date between sovereign states, died on Tuesday at his home in Quito, the capital. He was 95.
His family confirmed his death.
Before the conflict with Peru, Mr. Durán Ballén’s popularity had suffered as workers fought his efforts to sell the state oil, telephone and electric industries to nonstate companies, inspiring three general strikes.
But after ordering troops to resist Peruvian attacks, he rode a wave of nationalist enthusiasm. He could be seen daily on the balcony of the Presidential Palace pumping the air with his right fist and leading crowds in chants of “Not one step back!”
The border dispute had a long history. Tensions between the two countries had risen every year before the anniversary of a January 1942 treaty that followed a border war in 1941. The treaty gave about half of Ecuador to victorious Peru — a huge stretch of Amazon rain forest believed to be rich in oil and gold. Ecuador also lost direct access to the Amazon River.
Ecuador formally rejected the treaty in 1960. Hostilities broke out again in 1981, when fighting raged for four days over the Cordillera del Cóndor, a jungle mountain range.
In the 1995 conflict, Mr. Durán Ballén declared a state of emergency and a national mobilization; forbade Peru’s national airline, Aeroperú, from landing in Quito; and placed Peruvian journalists under surveillance.
Peru, led at the time by President Alberto K. Fujimori, had a military twice as large as Ecuador’s. When hostilities broke out, it was reported to have massed 20,000 troops and as many as 100 Soviet-made tanks in the border area. There were bombing raids, helicopter attacks and skirmishes that left a reported 73 dead and at least 200 wounded. Thousands of people fled the area.
The conflict ended with a cease-fire, and eventually an agreement was reached demarcating the disputed border.
Mr. Durán Ballén, a member of the right-wing Social Christian Party, was president from 1992 to 1996 and retired from politics afterward.
Sixto Alfonso Durán Ballén Cordovez was born in Boston on July 14, 1921. His father was there on a diplomatic mission.
He served as mayor of Quito from 1970 to 1978 and lost a bid for the presidency in 1979.
Survivors include his wife, Josefina Villalobos, with whom he had eight children.
Credit: The New York Times, http:/www.nytimes.com