The football war
In one of the more bizarre conflicts in modern Latin American history, on July 14, 1969, war broke out on the Honduras–El Salvador border. Ostensibly caused by a disputed result in a soccer match between the two countries, the conflict also stemmed from tensions generated by a steady rise in illegal migration of campesinos from El Salvador into Honduras in search of land.
In April 1969 the Honduran government had given settlers 30 days to return to El Salvador, and then begun forced expulsions – the result was the break-out of sporadic violence. In June, the two countries began a series of qualifying matches for the 1970 World Cup. The first game, held in Tegucigalpa, was won by Honduras, with a score of 1–0. At the second game (won 3–0 by El Salvador), held in San Salvador, spectators booed the Honduran national anthem and attacked visiting Honduran fans. The third, deciding, match was then pre-empted by the El Salvadoran army bombing targets in Honduras, and advancing up to 40km into Honduran territory.
After three days, around 2000 deaths and a complete breakdown of diplomatic relations, the Organization of American States (OAS) negotiated a ceasefire, establishing a 3km-wide demilitarized zone along the border. Tensions and minor skirmishes continued, however, until 1980, when a US-brokered peace treaty was signed. Only in 1992 did both sides finally accept an International Court of Justice ruling demarcating the border in its current location.
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