LA PAZ – Bolivia’s demand that Chile return its former Pacific ocean corridor will be required teaching throughout the landlocked nation’s educational system, President Evo Morales confirmed Monday while commemorating the Day of the Sea.
Morales made the announcement during his speech on the holiday Bolivia celebrates each March 23 to recall the loss of its coastal territory to Chile in an 1879 war and to proclaim its intention to recover its sovereign ocean access.
“It has been decided that the ‘Book of the Sea’ will be declared an official book, its use to be obligatory in the (national) educational system,” said Morales, adding that teaching students from gradeschool through the higher educational levels about the matter is “an historic task.”
The “Book of the Sea,” published last year, was prepared by a team of historians and jurists headed by Morales’ predecessor, Carlos Mesa, who is also the international spokesman for Bolivia’s territorial claim.
The document gathers together all of Bolivia’s arguments regarding recovering sovereign access to the sea from Chile.
Morales’ speech preceded a parade to the strains of the “Hymn of the Sea,” in which soldiers, police officers, students, Indians and members of various associations, including one for clowns, marched.
In his speech, the president emphasized the obligation of all Bolivian citizens “to keep the patriotic memory alive” in their children “about the significance of the Chilean invasion, about the significance of our sovereign access to the sea.”
Bolivia lost 400 km (250 mi.) of coastline and 120,000 square km (46,130 sq. mi.) of territory in the War of the Pacific and has claimed that it was invaded by Chilean troops during the conflict without a prior declaration of war.
The longstanding controversy was taken by Morales in 2013 to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, where he asked for a ruling obligating Chile to negotiate Bolivia’s Pacific access in good faith.
Bolivia claims that several Chilean governments have formally offered La Paz solutions to its landlocked status and this has created a legal basis for requesting formal negotiations before the UN court.
The Chilean government has rejected Bolivia’s demand arguing that the borders of the adjacent nations were defined in the Treaty of 1904, 25 years after the war.
Chile presented an objection against the ICJ’s authority to deal with the issue and a hearing on the matter is set for May.