Monday, March 24, 2014

Bolivian President Renews Push for Coastline

Bolivian President Evo Morales yesterday urged the international community to support his landlocked country’s push for a coastline that it lost to Chile 135 years ago.

“Today, in our America, different winds are blowing. Today, we are a continent of peace. We seek to find peaceful solutions to historical injustices without wars nor confrontations,” said Morales at a public speech to commemorate the local Day of the Sea holiday. 

The remarks by Morales occurred at an event in a La Paz plaza named after Eduardo Abaroa, a Bolivian national hero who lost his life in the War of the Pacific in 1879.  It was during this brutal conflict where Chile annexed tens of thousand of square miles of Bolivian and Peruvian land including some 260 miles of Bolivian coastline.

“Bolivia wants access to the sea before all of the area’s natural resources are exhausted and exploited by the international companies,” he added in apparent reference to billions of dollars Chile earns yearly by exports from copper, silver and minerals extracted from land formerly controlled by Bolivia.

“If a dictator like (former Chilean strongman Augusto) Pinochet proposed access to the ocean for bolivar in the 1970s, then the current socialist and democratic government can make this a reality in the 21st century,” Morales mentioned in a message to recently inaugurated Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

Since Bachelet retook the presidency on nearly two weeks ago, she has indicated that it will differ from that of her conservative predecessor, Sebastián Piñera, on issues like the treatment of the indigenous Mapuche and the planned HidroAysen hydropower complex.  Moreover, both Bachelet and Morales held bilateral negotiations during her first term in the presidency yet it appears like Bachelet in her second period in office would not sway from Piñera’s stance against the need to redraw boundaries.

“I believe Morales’ declaration is odious and his assertion that President Bachelet is a socialist doesn’t make any sense,” Jorge Tarud, the head of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, mentioned today.  He noted that Chile signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Bolivia in 1904 that defines the borders between both countries.

Last year, Morales filed a case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and proceedings are expected to start on April 17th.  Bolivian representatives on that date are scheduled to present its evidence supporting its claim to a coastline while Chile can provide its counterarguments in February 2015 according to the ICJ’s timeline.

The ICJ last January ruled in another border dispute involving Chile when the tribunal agreed to expand Peru’s maritime boundaries but not into valuable fishing territory controlled by Chile.  The presidents of Chile and Peru agreed to respect by the decision nonbinding decision though Chile’s Foreign Minister today urged Peruvian officials to “fully” abide by the ICJ’s verdict.

In 2010, then-Peruvian president Alan Garcia agreed to provide Bolivia with access to the sea via the construction of a port near the city of Ilo.  The building of the facility has yet to have been realized and a February meeting between Morales and current Peruvian leader Ollanta Humala to discuss the planned "mega-port" was postponed

Video Source– YouTube user JewishNewsOne

Online Sources – La Razón; Noticias Caracol; The Guardian; El Pais;; InSerbia News; LAHT; Reuters; The Latin Americanist

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