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News > Latin America

Bolivia and Chile: Rising Tensions Over Silala River's ICJ Case

  • Bolivian President Evo Morales (l) and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera (r).

    Bolivian President Evo Morales (l) and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera (r). | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 June 2018

Last year Chile filed a lawsuit against Bolivia asking the ICJ to "reaffirm" its right to equal access to the river's water. 

Bolivian President Evo Morales decided not to present a countersuit against Chile in the case over the use of the Silala river’s waters which us being heard in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), at The Hague.

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Evo’s decision was announced after he met with Bolivia’s legal team.

Shortly after, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera reaffirmed his country’s position: “The Silala river is an international river,” prompting a response by Morales who tweeted “Chile makes a mistake if it believes Bolivia is admitting the water of the Silala spring is from an ‘international river’.”

The Silala is a water channel that springs from the Potosi department in Bolivia and crosses the border into Chile.  

According to Bolivia, the channel is the result of a series of artificial ducts created to deviate the waters, built during the early twentieth century by Chilean companies. For this reason, La Paz says Chile has a debt with Bolivia.

Morales contends this was done illegally, but Chile says the ducts were installed with Bolivia’s authorization with the goal of maintaining its purity and controlling its flow. Maria Teresa Infante, a member of Chile’s legal team in The Hague told EFE that water flows to Chile “naturally, not induced by mechanical or artificial mechanisms… Chile has the right to use it.”

Last year Chile filed a lawsuit against Bolivia due to fears that its neighbor would cut the flow of water.

Instead of a countersuit , Bolivia will submit a counter-memorial to the ICJ before September 2018. After that the ICJ will decide whether to begin the hearings in the trial.

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