After the second day of the plea at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, President Evo Morales spoke about Bolivia's historical struggle for sea access and Chile's obligation to negotiate with them.
“During 130 years Bolivia hasn't stopped and will not stop looking for a solution that brings back balance between the two states and allows for a useful and sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean coasts,” said President Morales.
He further argued that the purpose of the 10-day long hearings is not to provide Bolivia with a sea exit, but to persuade Chile into negotiating with its northern neighbor for solution both can agree on. “The case that Bolivia brought to the ICJ is a simple case and a just cause,” said Morales. “We want to show that Chile broke its commitments.”
In the first two days of the hearings, the Bolivian legal team reviewed the history of the conflict with Chile, the war that led to the 1904 treaty that took the sea away from Bolivia and all the times Chile has committed to negotiate with Bolivia, failing to do so at the end.
Remiro Brotons, from Bolivia's legal team, said that Chile formally committed to negotiate sea access with Bolivia through diplomatic notes at least in 1920, 1950 and 1975, with the intention to “satisfy the Bolivian necessity for sea access, as Bolivia demanded negotiations and Chile accepted," and declared that such declarations couldn't be deemed as non-binding.
Payam Akhavan, an Iranian lawyer working on Bolivia's legal team, quoted former Chilean President Arturo Alessandri saying that “Bolivia will always find Chile [ready] to negotiate sea access with a port of their own,” in 1923.
Akhavan then said Chile has been ignoring their own declarations at international organizations, such as the League of Nations of the Organization of American States, in which they stated that a sea access for Bolivia was an issue of permanent interest in the region.
“At the end, the Bolivian team managed to demonstrate in a coherent manner all promises made by Chile, which the court must judge,” said Morales.
For several decades, Bolivia has been fighting to reclaim its coastal territory from Chile to gain access to the Pacific Ocean, which it lost in the 1897 War of the Pacific that left the country landlocked. A 1904 peace treaty struck after the War of the Pacific, which fixed current boundaries, is believed to be dubious by Bolivian critics.
The landlocked Andean nation is seeking sovereign access to the sea to help boost its exports of natural gas and minerals, as currently, Bolivia has sea access through Chile, and it must pay taxes to use it.
Each year Bolivia marks the Day of the Sea on March 23, where large crowds gather to march in the streets of Bolivia's capital, La Paz, with miniature boats and ships. The Andean country which is landlocked for the most part has a navy which marks the day in uniform.
The oral hearing at the ICJ will run through March 28, after which the judges will take several months before setting the date for a ruling.