LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales on Thursday demanded that Chile make an official proposal in writing regarding his landlocked country’s effort to recover at least a portion of the Pacific coastline that it lost to Santiago in a 19th-century war.
In a speech in La Paz marking the 189th anniversary of the founding of the Bolivian navy, Morales lamented that Chile has never officially set forth its offers and revealed that during the administration of its previous president, Sebastian Piñera, it verbally offered the zone “on loan” to Bolivia for 99 years.
“They told us in several meetings, ‘we want to give you an outlet to the Pacific on loan for 99 years, (and) in that corridor Bolivian law would prevail, but not sovereignty,’” the president said.
However, Morales went on to say, Chile never presented that proposal officially, despite the insistent requests by Bolivia that there would have to be a public written commitment as a prerequisite “to begin the dialogue in an official manner.”
The claim presented in 2013 by Bolivia against Chile before the International Court of Justice in The Hague specifically asks the court to urge Santiago to negotiate a solution to the Bolivian demand, extant for more than 100 years, for an outlet to the sea.
“We don’t want there to be winners or losers, but to resolve this problem via sincere, open dialogue with proposals,” said Morales, directing his remarks to Chile.
He also said that “both countries” would win if Bolivia recovered sovereign access to the sea.
The president said: “We’re not talking about Chile compensating (Bolivia) for the economic damages (caused by its loss of its coastline), but it’s our obligation for this issue to be resolved by dialogue or via the ICJ.”
Tension between Chile and Bolivia over the maritime matter has been increasing over the past year.
The most recent episode in this complicated relationship was Chile’s decision to hold military maneuvers over the past week in the zone near the border with Bolivia and Peru, a move that provoked an angry reaction from the Bolivian government.
Morales, who had already criticized that Chilean military exercise when it was announced, argued on Thursday that “now is not the time for expansionism or to intimidate” and he emphasized the support for Bolivia’s maritime position that he received on his recent European tour.
In September, the ICJ declared itself to have the authority to fully analyze Bolivia’s demand and set a deadline of July 25, 2016, for Chile to submit written arguments defending its position.