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News > Latin America

Bolivia to Chile at International Court of Justice: 'You Took Our Coast by Force'

  • President Evo Morales greets members of Bolivia's legal team.

    President Evo Morales greets members of Bolivia's legal team. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 March 2018

Chile Insists it has nothing to negotiate over due to the 1904 Peace and Friendship Treaty.

The lawsuit presented by Bolivia to the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, in 2013 to oblige Chile to negotiate sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean for the landlocked country entered its the last round of hearings Monday.

Morales: Chile's Inconsistent Arguments Strengthen Bolivia's Maritime Claim

Bolivia came out strong in the first statement of the last round of hearings. “Force gave you access violating a long standing treaty,” Bolivia’s lawyer, Ramiro Brotons, told Chile's defense team and the court in his opening statement, referring to Chile’s conquest of the disputed territory after winning the War of the Pacific (1879 - 1884) against Bolivia and Peru.

He later showed the inconsistencies in Chile’s arguments, reminding them they once used the treaties submitted as evidence by Bolivia in an international dispute with Peru and pointing to the inconsistencies of their attempt to say these documents did not constitute treaties. “They must be coherent, and fulfill their commitments,” Brotons added.

The Bolivian team further emphasized the exchange of documents between Chile and Bolivia in which both parties agreed on negotiating Bolivia’s sovereign access to the sea. "They reject the documents presented by Bolivia; that seems reckless.”

Before entering the Peace Palace, house of the ICJ, where Chile and Bolivia continue to present their legal arguments and counter-arguments, Chile’s Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero said in a press release: “We are always very calm, very sure of our approach, very sure of what history is, very sure of the truth… something unites us with Bolivians and give us stability and security, and that is the unrestricted respect to the 1904 treaty.”

The 1904 Peace and Friendship Treaty, in which Bolivia accepted the loss of 400 kilometers of coastline and was granted access to Chilean ports like Antofagasta with a fee, is at the center of Chile’s contention that it has no obligation to negotiate with Bolivia.

However, President Evo Morales told Bolivian press agency ABI that the lawsuit is not about the 1904 treaty, “after the 1904 treaty, in 1920 Chile offered sovereign access to the sea and has not fulfilled this… This lawsuit is about Chile fulfilling its promises, offers and diplomatic agreements.”

This set of rounds will end on March 28, after which the court must set a date for its final and binding ruling. 

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