SANTIAGO – Nine Bolivian citizens held in Chile since a border incident in March were convicted on Wednesday and expelled to their homeland, marking the apparent end of an episode that has aggravated relations between the two countries.
Judge Isabel Peña ordered that the Bolivians – two soldiers and nine customs agents – be deported from Chile within 30 days.
She found the defendants guilty of smuggling, armed robbery, and illegal possession of weapons.
The nine Bolivians were arrested March 19 some 400 meters (yards) inside Chile’s territory, according to Santiago.
La Paz has always maintained that the Bolivian soldiers and customs agents were detained on their own country’s territory while attempting to inspect three contraband-laden trucks as they crossed the border from Chile.
The incident put additional strain on the already difficult relationship between Chile and Bolivia, which have not had diplomatic relations since 1978.
The two nations are currently engaged in litigation before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
La Paz wants Chile to return at least a portion of the Pacific coastline that now-landlocked Bolivia lost to Santiago in a 19th-century war.