Monday, February 7, 2011

Bolivia renews demands for access to sea

It has been over a century since Bolivia ceded its coastline to neighboring Chile. Recent efforts by landlocked Bolivia to regain access to the sea have been repeatedly rejected by Chile and odds are that it will not change this week.

For the first time since 1950, Chile’s Foreign Minster met with his Bolivian counterpart in La Paz. Bolivia’s David Choquehuanca is expected to bring up the contentious issue of Bolivian access to the Pacific Ocean during his meeting with the visiting Chilean diplomatic chief, Alfredo Moreno. The Chilean delegation will seek a “useful, feasible, and practical” answer to the Bolivian demands, said Moreno though he refrained from publicly endorsing a specific solution.

The bilateral discussions were somewhat marred by allegations from a former senior Bolivian diplomat that ex-president Michelle Bachelet proposed access to the sea via a seventeen-mile stretch of land that would still remain under Chilean sovereignty. Current president Sebastián Piñera would subsequently reject such an option according to former Bolivian Deputy Foreign Minister Hugo Fernandez. (Choquehuanca publicly denounced Fernandez’ claims).

Last October Peru granted Bolivia access to build a port on a “desolate patch of…shoreline”, which was a diplomatic breakthrough. The role of Peru, which also ceded land to Chile in 1904, in any negotiations between Bolivia and Chile cannot be understated. For instance, the Peruvian government refused to agree to a provision plan in 1975 due to 19th-century territorial claims.

Image- BBC Mundo (19th-century map of Peru (in pink) and Bolivia (in green)).
Online Sources- Terra Peru, The Latin Americanist, La Tercera, AFP, The Guardian, EFE, BBC Mundo

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