SANTIAGO – The Chilean government said on Sunday that as soon as it learned that two Carabinero officers had been detained last week by Bolivian police after entering the neighboring country’s territory, it launched diplomatic efforts to secure their release, thus contradicting Bolivian President Evo Morales, who had said no such efforts had been made.
“As soon as the detention of the Carabineros occurred, the Chilean government – via diplomatic channels – made efforts to obtain access to them and (to secure) their quick release,” said the Chilean Foreign Ministry in a statement released on Sunday.
Morales had denied on Sunday that Chile made any effort to obtain the release of the two men – Jaime Diaz Pezo and Nicolas Morales Manriquez – detained last Friday.
“As far as I know, there was no contact, no communication with any (Chilean) government authority. ... I have no information that anyone made appropriate efforts for the release of the two (men),” Morales had said at a press conference at the Government Palace in La Paz.
The Chilean Foreign Ministry said that two diplomatic notes requesting the men’s release were sent and were received by Bolivia’s Foreign Ministry, basing the request on the November 2008 cooperation agreement signed between the Chilean Carabineros and the Bolivian National Police.
The two officers were released on Sunday by Bolivia and taken to the city of Iquique, where they met with their family members in a very emotional scene.
According to Biobio Radio, the two officers with Chile’s militarized police force were returned on Morales’s orders and arrived at the Chungara-Tambo Quemado border pass, located at an altitude of 4,680 meters (15,350 feet) and linking northern Chile with southwestern Bolivia.
On Twitter, Morales had said that “Bolivians and Chileans are brothers and we all must resolve this keeping that in mind.”
The Chileans were detained on Friday after penetrating some 4 kilometers (2 miles) into Bolivian territory while chasing a van that refused to stop at a police checkpoint, the online daily Emol said, citing “high police sources.”
The incident took place after on June 21 a Chilean judge sentenced seven Bolivian National Customs Agency officials for robbery with violence and smuggling and two Bolivian soldiers for illegally carrying weapons on Chilean territory.
The nine Bolivian citizens had been arrested in Chile on March 19 after an incident that La Paz said was an anti-operation carried out in Bolivian territory but which the Chilean judiciary said was actually a criminal act.