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News > Bolivia

Bolivia's Morales on Sea Day: 'Determined to Return to Sea'

  • Bolivians demand sea access. 2018

    Bolivians demand sea access. 2018 | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 March 2019
Opinion

During the March 23 Sea Day festivals President Morales says he respects last year's Hague court ruling but insists Bolivia's demand for sea access is 'unwavering.'  

During this year's Sea Day festivities in Bolivia, President Evo Morales said, "The (United Nations International) Court (of Justice) has not rejected our historic and unwavering maritime demand."

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Each March 23 the land-locked Andean country celebrates Sea Day as an act of resistance against the beginning of the Pacific War with Chile that started in 1879 and resulted in Chile’s taking some 400 km of Bolivian coast. This year marks the 140th anniversary of the beginning of the war that last five years and left 18,000 Bolivians dead.

"The roads to our sea are many," said Morales. "With more conviction than ever, our reunion with the sea is not only possible, but an inalienable (right)." Despite not having seaway access, Bolivia maintains its national navy which is highly commemorated at the annual Sea Day parade in La Paz.

Morales said at the Saturday celebration that his government respects The Hague’s October 2018 12-3 decision that does not oblige Chile to engage in discussions about the land dispute with Bolivia, but added: "Our people ... maintain the determination ... to return to the sea," said the head of state.

The Bolivian president began his formal fight for the sea five years prior to the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) final ruling. At the time of last year's decision Morales stated, "Bolivia is never going to give up its prosecution. The Bolivian people know, the world knows, that because of an invasion, we have been denied access to the Pacific Ocean."  

The war began when Bolivia tried to raise taxes on Chilean and British mining companies that monopolize the industry in Bolivia’s Litoral department. After these international companies refused to pay the tariffs, Bolivia moved to nationalize the lucrative operations prompting Chile to attack the region and steal some 120,000 sq km of Bolivian territory. Chile's army also attacked Peru that lost territory in various battles.

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Morales said Bolivian people will never give up "returning to the sea with sovereignty in brotherhood, peace and integration that  mutually benefits .... neighbors."

Bolivia depends on Chile for its Pacific ports for international trade. According to the Bolivian Foreign Trade Institute (IBCE), the country loses between US$350 million and US$1 billion annually due to lack of access to the sea.

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