Bolivia takes demand for access to the sea to The Hague

Posted on | mei 11, 2011 | No Comments

In a new development in Bolivia’s longstanding demand for sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean, President Evo Morales announced on 23 March that the country would seek international mediation. The basis of Bolivia’s claim for access to the sea it lost to Chile in the War of the Pacific in 1879 is a 1904 treaty that recognised Chile’s permanent control over the contested territory but did not cede Bolivian sovereignty as such.

Bolivia also claims Chile failed to comply with an 1895 treaty whereby Bolivia was to be ceded sovereign territory in northern Chile in exchange. A protocol signed with Chile in 1907 states that, in the case of an unresolved dispute, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague would be designated as arbiter.

Chile’s immediate reaction was to suspend negotiations with Bolivia over the issue. Bolivia then responded it would simultaneously take the demand to The Hague while continuing negotiations with Chile. At the end of April, a statement by some Chilean parliamentarians – that if Bolivia wants access to the sea it must first renounce its claim for sovereignty – brings out the main underlying issue, that of sovereignty.

In an historic meeting, Evo Morales brought together five former Bolivian presidents to help develop the new strategy. They are expected to participate in a working group, along with foreign ministry and other experts.

The government is also demanding payment for the use of water from the Silala marshes that flows down into northern Chile, another issue that has been under negotiation for several years. The Bolivian government has now announced that it is planning to use 50% of these waters, thus reducing flows to Chile. Bolivia has said it also considers taking this case to international arbitration.

The government has declared 29 April to be the Day for the Right to the Recovery of the Sea (in addition to the Day of the Sea, celebrated annually on 23 March) and it held a big event in La Paz’s main stadium where 30,000 people were addressed by Morales. Those present also listened to live music from Bolivian and Chilean groups, including Inti Illimani.

The government has confirmed that it is now making contact with legal teams abroad to design the brief that it proposes to take to The Hague.

AUTHOR: Bolivia Information Forum
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