LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales doubted Chile’s commitment to peace on Thursday, asking what peace the Chilean government could guarantee when it has set up mine fields on the border between the two countries.
Evo Morales, speaking at a press conference in the central city of Cochabamba, was referring to the strained relations between Chile and Bolivia, two countries that have been without official diplomatic relations since 1978 over La Paz’s demand for a sovereign outlet to the Pacific Ocean.
Morales spoke of Wednesday’s presentation of oral arguments in landlocked Bolivia’s case against Chile before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
The Bolivian president criticized Chile for justifying its position based on the 1904 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between La Paz and Santiago, which established the borders between the two countries after the 1879-1880 War of the Pacific, when Bolivia lost its access to the sea.
The treaty “does not guarantee peace or friendship,” Morales said.
He questioned how it was possible to speak of peace and friendship when the Chilean and United States armies conduct military exercises on the border with Bolivia, when there are mine fields on the Chilean side of the border, and when Chile’s authorities have done little to fight smuggling, which affects Bolivia’s economy.
“What kind of friendship can we build with these types of behavior?” he asked.
Bolivia lost 400 kilometers (250 miles) of coastline and 120,000 sq. kilometers (46,330 sq. miles) of territory to Chile as a consequence of the 1879-1880 conflict.
Chile says there is nothing to negotiate because its borders with Bolivia were established in the 1904 treaty.
In 2015, however, the ICJ Court agreed with Bolivia that it had jurisdiction to hear the case.
The ICJ said then that Bolivia’s claims about Chile’s obligation to negotiate sovereign access to the Pacific were not addressed in the treaty.