Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wars you have never heard of, Part II: The Football War

In the second part of my series on "Wars you have never heard of" I have decided to tell you about the Football War.

The Football War, also known as the 100 Hours War, is relatively simple to explain, but let me first point out that it only lasted six days. It bothers my sense of propriety that there are 144 hours in 6 days, yet it is called the 100 hours War. Whatever.

This is basically how it breaks down. In the years leading up to 1969, there were a great many issues that existed between El Salvador and Honduras. Honduras is a bigger country than El Salvador, and El Salvador had a much larger population than Honduras. Because of this, there was an influx of Salvadora immigrants into Honduras, and according to Wikipedia, this resulted in around 350,000 Salvadorans moving into Honduras, or around 20% of the peasant population. Wikipedia being what it is, I checked other, more credible sources, and this seems to be pretty accurate. Anyway, in 1969, Honduras enacted a land reform law that resulted in more than a few Salvadorans getting booted off their land, which meant they had to move back to El Salvador. This caused tensions enough, but the fire was fueled by El Salvadoran newspapers fueling the fires, and this led to a country wide hatred of Honduras.

Now, as it happens, in 1969 El Salvador and Honduras also played a three game elimination qualifer for the World Cup. We all know how the World Cup gets everyone in the world but America super excited, and when you heap on a liberal dose of genuine hatred, it just makes it all the more important. As you might expect, the games ended in rioting, but more importantly, it gave El Salvador the perfect opportunity to make war on Honduras, and so they did.

Basically, El Salvador invaded, and because they had a superior military, did relatively well. Honduras quickly recieved aid from Nicaragua, which helped stop the advance. Within short order, El Salvador, with Honduran promises of reparations to the displaced Salvadoran peasantry, pulled back into El Salvador, and the war was essentially over. Losses came to about 2000 people on each side. It is here that I will add that this was the last war that saw piston-engined fighters deployed, to include the venerable American P-51 Mustang! I pulled that factoid off Wikipedia as well, but again, it turns out to be perfectly accurate.

Now then, the after effects. The last war I talked about had the effect of, well, pretty much nothing. The Americans kept some crappy little islands, the British really weren't that concerned, and that was that. In this case however, the aftereffects were much more severe. Of particular note was the fact that El Salvador ended up turning into a military dictatorship, and that resulted in a civil war that ended up with the deaths of between 75,000-80,000 people. As a side note, the El Salvadoran Civil War is no joke, man. There were death squads, nuns and priests getting murdered, millions of people left homeless, and some horrifying atrocities. In terms of raw violence, the El Salvadoran Civil War was just as bad as the war in Bosnia.

So, there you have it. The Football War. Soccer wasn't really the cause of it as much as it was the straw that broke the camels back, and it was longer than 100 hours.

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