LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales on Tuesday rejected Chile’s challenge to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice over a long-standing bilateral territorial dispute.
“I want to firmly state that Bolivia rejects the pretensions of the Chilean government in failing to recognize the authority of the Court to resolve this case,” Morales told reporters in the southern city of Sucre.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced Monday night that Santiago will object to the ICJ’s authority to hear Bolivia’s suit over a quarrel that has its roots in the 1879-1884 War of the Pacific.
Bolivia, which lost its entire Pacific coastline in that conflict, has long demanded that Chile return at least some of the territory to provide the now-landlocked Andean nation with sovereign access to the sea.
While refusing to discuss any cession of territory, Chilean governments have proposed other ways of accommodating Bolivia’s desire for an outlet to the ocean.
“It’s contradictory ... for the Chilean government to proclaim itself a country that respects the law and treaties but simultaneously to reject the authority of the main organ of international justice to resolve the differences that occur between states,” Morales said.
Bolivia has argued that it was the victim of a Chilean invasion in the 1879-1884 conflict because there was no previous declaration of war.
Chile’s challenge to the ICJ’s jurisdiction is based on the fact that Santiago and La Paz established their border definitively in a 1904 treaty, nearly half a century before the Hague-based tribunal was created.
That 1904 treaty, Bachelet emphasized, “has been respected and implemented by both states for more than a century.”
In April 2013, Bolivia requested an ICJ ruling obligating Chile to negotiate the issue in good faith.
In practical terms, Chile’s decision means Bolivia’s case before the ICJ will remain on hold for as long as 18 months.