Monday, January 27, 2014

International Court Verdict in Peru-Chile Border Dispute

Neither Peru nor Chile got entirely what they wanted in a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding a bilateral border dispute.

The ICJ agreed on Monday to expand Peru’s maritime boundary to cover some 10,800 square miles of ocean currently in international waters.  Thus, the tribunal partially agreed to Peru’s original claim of nearly 15,000 square miles of ocean.

Even though Chile may have to cede some of its territory in the Pacific Ocean, disagreed with Peru’s argument on how to redraw the maritime boundary.  By ruling that the maritime border should start from the same point on the coastline as it does now, the ICJ may have preserved valuable coastal fishing areas currently controlled by Chile.

Although the ICJ’s ruling is nonbinding the presidents of Chile and Peru have agreed to abide by the decision.

Peru is pleased with the outcome,” said the Andean country’s president Ollanta Humala. “With this controversy resolved, the court affirmed our rights,” added Humala.

Humala’s Chilean counterpart, Sebastián Piñera, said, “he strongly disagreed” with the part of the verdict that expands Peru’s maritime claims.  Yet he noted that both he and President-elect Michelle Bachelet will ensure that the court’s ruling would be applied “gradually and based on future agreements between both countries.”

The ICJ’s ruling was reminiscent of the court’s compromise decision made in a 2012 ruling between Nicaragua and Colombia over disputed oceanic claims.  Unlike the diplomatic tensions in the aftermath of that verdict, the strong economic ties between Chile and Peru mean that neither country would benefit from their leaders harshly criticizing the ruling.

According to an article from Bloomberg:
“The ruling will be a mere anecdote in the history of relations between Peru and Chile,” said Humberto Speziani, a director at the Peruvian Fisheries Society. “There’s been so much investment by Peru in Chile and vice versa. The maritime dispute is just an obstacle in the way of real integration” of the border area, Speziani said by telephone…
The stock of Chilean foreign investment in Peru is about $14 billion compared with the $10 billion that Peruvian companies have invested in their southern neighbor, according to the Peru-Chile Chamber of Commerce.
More than 180,000 Peruvians reside in Chile, while Peru is the top tourist destination for Chileans, and about 5 million people cross the Tacna-Arica border each year, according to the chamber.
The ICJ’s decision may put to an end a dispute that stemmed from the 1879-1883 War of the Pacific where Chile claimed territory from neighboring Peru and Bolivia’s coastline.  In recent years the government of landlocked Bolivia has sought to regain part of its coastline though it has had to make do with a small access to sea via a Peruvian port.

Latin America has seen its share of recent border disputes with perhaps the best known example regarding the sovereignty of the British-controlled Falkland Islands located off the Argentine coast.  Tensions have been high between Costa Rica and Nicaragua over activity in the border region between both countries, while offshore oil exploration has become a sore point between neighbors Guyana and Venezuela.

Video Source– euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – BBC News; La Republica; La Nacion; Bloomberg; The Latin Americanist; MercoPress; The Guardian; Costa Rica News; International Court of Justice

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