SANTIAGO – Nine Bolivian citizens who were arrested in March in Chile and convicted earlier this month of smuggling, armed robbery and illegal weapons possession were deported on Wednesday, police said.
In handing down her sentence last week, Judge Isabel Peña had ordered that the seven customs agents and two soldiers be deported from Chile within 30 days.
The nine individuals were reunited with their family members at the Pisiga border crossing in southwestern Bolivia after La Paz paid a $48,000 fine that had been imposed as part of the sentence.
They are to be received on Wednesday by President Evo Morales and other Bolivian authorities, according to media reports in the Andean nation.
The 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.