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News > Latin America

Chilean National Laureates Pledge Support for Bolivia's Maritime Claim

  • Bolivians hold their national flags as they watch a re-enactment of a War of the Pacific battle.

    Bolivians hold their national flags as they watch a re-enactment of a War of the Pacific battle. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 March 2018

“Every day more people join the claim #SeaForBolivia," said Bolivia’s President Evo Morales in a tweet.

A group of prominent Chilean national award winners and intellectuals have pledged their support to Bolivia’s claim to sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean. The show of support came on the final day of arguments on Bolivia's maritime claim against Chile at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in the Hague.

Chile Won't Negotiate Sea Access With Bolivia

Chile’s legal team reiterated Wednesday that they would not negotiate sovereign sea access for Bolivia, citing the “drastic consequences to thousands of Chilean families” who live in Chile’s northern coast.

The group of national laureates; including historians, social scientists, and journalists expressed their support through a video by the Academy of Christian Humanism University posted on social media.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales shared the video through his personal Twitter account saying “Every day more people join the claim #SeaForBolivia. I thank the solidarity of brothers: Moulian, Garreton, Pinto Rodriguez, Pinto Vallejos, Cardenas and Radrigan; all Chilean national laureates. Thank you for helping us build a space, where all of us win.” 

In the video, 2005 journalism laureate, Juan Pablo Cardenas said: "I have no problem as a Chilean in advocating for the just right of Bolivians to demand an exit to the sea." While Julio Pinto, 2016 history laureate, explained the solution entails “the re-education of society itself" since the majority of Chileans reject conceding territory.

Tomas Moulian, a winner of the 2015 national prize of social sciences and humanities, maintained that “Chile must grant Bolivia a sovereign exit to the sea," while Manuel Garreton who won the same prize in 2007 warned “if we lock ourselves in an identity that is based on military facts, in war… the country is going to be an isolated country.”

The current Chilean borders are based on the land its military conquered during the War of the Pacific, in the late nineteenth century, which Chile fought against Bolivia and Peru after a tariffs dispute with Bolivia.

Discussing the returning Bolivia’s sovereignty, national history laureate, Jorge Pinto argued: "it would be an act of justice."

Chilean poet Raul Zurita, who does not appear in the video but won the national prize for literature in 2000, has highlighted the inequality that not granting sovereign sea access to Bolivia supposes. "It does not obey any logic that a country that has four thousand kilometers of coastline (Chile) cannot yield, donate, deliver or return to a brother country that has none," Zurita said.

Chile and Bolivia are in litigation at the ICJ, after the government of President Morales sued Chile in 2013 to demand they negotiate a sovereign exit to the Pacific Ocean. After the final hearings ended Wednesday, the Court will have to deliberate and produce a final, binding ruling. The ruling is expected in late 2018 or early 2019.

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