ARICA, Chile – The free transit and use of ports that Chile granted Bolivia under a 1904 treaty provides for intense commercial activity but also creates conflicts between local officials and operators from the neighboring country who view some regulations as abusive.
“The lack of diplomatic relations with Bolivia creates these disputes, because with (diplomatic relations) we could improve a lot in terms of the issues of borders, customs and transportation,” Gabriel Gaspar, Chile’s special ambassador dealing with Bolivia’s demand for access to the sea, told EFE.
Gaspar said the solution would be joint border control, an approach that has been tried but has not become permanent.
Some 380 trucks – 95 percent of them Bolivian – pass each day through the Chungara border crossing at 4,678 meters (15,337 feet) above sea level, the Chilean customs service said.
On arrival in the port of Arica, where Chile has invested more than $100 million to facilitate Bolivia’s maritime trade, truckers deliver cargo bound overseas and load foreign goods, accounting for 80 percent of Bolivia’s imports.
All transactions are managed by Bolivia’s customs service, but Bolivian officials still complain about duties, delays, mistreatment, interference and arbitrary actions by Arica port officials.
Under the 1904 Treaty of Peace and Friendship that established the final border between the countries 25 years after Bolivia lost its territory on the Pacific Ocean, Chile pledged to allow its neighbor perpetual free commercial transit into the ports of Arica and Antofagasta, and duty-free warehousing for up to 60 days for exports and up to one year for imports.
In addition, Bolivia is exempt from freight taxes and has customs authority in both ports, allowing it to set its own duties and the rates on import licenses.
In September, Bolivia complained to the Latin American Integration Association, or ALADI, that Chile was breaking its pledges by preventing the unloading of Bolivian containers and moving them to private areas outside ports, which increases costs and delays for importers.
These problems, according to people familiar with the situation, have intensified since 2013, when Bolivia sued Chile at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, seeking a ruling that would force Santiago to negotiate with La Paz to restore Bolivia’s access to the sea.