LA PAZ – President Evo Morales on Wednesday announced that his government will sue Chile in the “appropriate international bodies” over water from the Silala springs in southwestern Bolivia.
“Each day, Chile illegally and slyly takes advantage of that natural resources without paying a cent. This abusive and arbitrary act that harms our assets cannot continue,” said Morales in a message to the country for the Day of the Sea, which commemorates the 137 years since the loss of Bolivia’s Pacific coast in a war with Chile.
The president made the announcement after reviewing the history of the suit that Bolivia filed against Chile in 2013 before the International Court of Justice at The Hague calling for negotiations to allow it to recover its sovereign access to the sea, which was lost in 1879.
Bolivia says that the Silala region, located in Potosi province, contains natural springs whose waters flow into Chile via artificial canals built more than 100 years ago, adding that La Paz several times has demanded compensation from the Chilean government for the water the neighboring country is using.
Chile says that it is drawing the water from an international river, and as such the water does not belong exclusively to Bolivia.
La Paz and Santiago in 2009-2010 negotiated an agreement whereby northern Chilean businesses would begin to pay for the use of the water, but the document was not signed because the Potosi provincial administration also demanded payment for what it called the “historic debt” resulting from using the water for more than a century.
Morales also said that, with the results achieved in the ICJ regarding its demand for an outlet to the sea, Bolivia has demonstrated that “it is highly prepared to undertake the legal defense of its rights in any scenario for a peaceful solution.”
The president once again emphasized the September 2015 ruling of the ICJ justices rejecting a Chilean objection and declaring themselves authorized to analyze Bolivia’s long-standing maritime dispute.
In the 1879 war, Chilean troops captured 400 km (250 mi.) of Bolivian coastline and 120,000 square km (more than 46,000 square mi.) of territory.