SANTIAGO – Chile’s president said here Wednesday that landlocked Bolivia had aspirations to reclaim sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean but that this was not equivalent to a right to regain that lost territory.
“Bolivia needs to learn not to confuse aspirations with rights and much less pretend that its aspirations create obligations for our country,” Sebastian Piñera told reporters at the La Moneda presidential palace.
Bolivia brought the sea-access case against Chile before the International Court of Justice in The Hague in April 2013, and on Wednesday the United Nation’s principal judicial organ heard oral arguments from Chile on the final day of the proceedings.
A final ruling in the case is not expected to be issued for several months.
Piñera said Chile’s delegation in the ICJ had clearly shown that Bolivia’s lawsuit is based “solely on aspirational arguments,” which are aimed at trying to create a “supposed obligation (on Chile’s part) that does not exist and for which there is no legal basis.”
Bolivia “did not prove that Chile entered into a binding obligation, did not prove that Chile violated that obligation, also did not show that that supposed obligation continues to exist today,” the president said.
Bolivian President Evo Morales, who headed up his country’s delegation during the oral-arguments phase in The Hague, said late last week that for more than a century Chile repeatedly pledged – via unilateral statements, accords and diplomatic practices – to find a solution to the dispute.
La Paz argued in court that because of those earlier promises Chile now has a binding obligation to negotiate “in good faith and effectively with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.”
Last week, Morales said Chile was trying to shirk that obligation by characterizing its earlier promises as “chats among neighbors.”
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 its 1879-1880 participation in the War of the Pacific, a conflict in which Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and wrested territory from its neighbors.
Chile says there is nothing to negotiate because its borders with Bolivia were established in a 1904 peace treaty.
In 2015, however, the World 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.