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Bolivia appeals to history, law to negotiate ocean access with Chile

Staff Writer |
La Paz appealed to history and the law to demand that the International Court of Justice in The Hague obligate Chile to come to the negotiating table to discuss providing Pacific Ocean access to landlocked Bolivia.

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The Bolivian legal team responded Monday to Chile’s court arguments last week before the ICJ justices asking them to reject the lawsuit brought by the neighboring nation.

Bolivia’s chief attorney, Antonio Remiro Brotons, referred to the 1879-1884 War of the Pacific, which resulted in Bolivia’s losing some 400 kilometers (250 miles) of coastline and 120,000 square kilometers (about 46,330 square miles) of territory to Chile as a consequence of the conflict in which Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and wrested territory from its neighbors.

“Neither God nor the Spanish Crown authorized the Bolivian coastline to Chile,” but rather that country “appropriated” that territory “by force by breaking a prevailing treaty,” he said.

According to Bolivia, its chances for development have been reduced by not having sovereign access to the sea whereby it could export its natural resources.

“In the interests of an historic reparation, all the (Chilean) leaders in the manner of statesmen have said that they could restore (Bolivia’s) sovereign access (to the sea) lost through the war and would do so via negotiations,” Remiro Brotons said.

Bolivia has denounced Chile before the ICJ and demanded negotiations, something that Santiago feels it is not legally obliged to do, arguing that the 1904 Peace Treaty signed by both states after the War of the Pacific set their borders in perpetuity.

However, Bolivia insists that in numerous later contacts over at least the next century between the two countries to deal with the issue expectations had been raised and they can only be fulfilled via direct negotiation.

Bolivian attorney Amy Sander noted on Monday that the Organization of American States approved 11 resolutions between 1979-1989 in which it called on the two nations to resolve their differences.

Chile’s legal team said last week, however, that those resolutions are only of a political nature, and thus they do not imply any legal obligation to negotiate, adding that the OAS has not made a pronouncement on the matter in the last 28 years.

Bolivian President Evo Morales did not speak before the justices but he did read a statement to the press on the steps of the ICJ saying that his nation had brought this matter before the high court to “extend bridges of understanding and not (build) walls of confrontation” and calling for a “definitive solution” to Bolivia’s claim, which would result in a “joint victory.”

The ICJ proceedings will conclude on Wednesday with a statement from the Chilean legal team in response to the arguments presented on Monday by Bolivia, after which the justices will begin deliberations, issuing a ruling in late 2018 or early 2019.

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