LA PAZ – Bolivia plans to file a counter-suit against Chile at the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, over the alleged theft and illegal use of the Silala River, President Evo Morales said Tuesday.
Morales discussed Bolivia’s legal plans a day after the Chilean government filed suit in the ICJ in The Hague to declare the river an international waterway since it flows along the border.
Chile’s lawsuit is “no surprise,” Morales said, calling on Santiago to not question the ICJ’s jurisdiction in taking up La Paz’s claim, which comes three years after the Bolivian government sued Chile over a historical maritime claim.
Bolivia contends the Silala River, located in the southwestern region of Potosi, originates in springs that ultimately flow into Chile.
Bolivian officials have repeatedly demanded compensation from the Chilean government and businesses for the use of the waterway.
Chile contends the Silala is an international river.
President Michelle Bachelet said Monday that Chile was taking its case to the World Court.
“We have decided to take the initiative” to get the Silala River declared an international waterway, Bachelet told Radio Cero.
Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz, for his part, said in a press conference that Chile filed the lawsuit with the ICJ in The Hague, a formal process that seeks to establish whether the river should be considered an international waterway or not.
“Chile cannot remain passive against the repeated conduct of the government of Bolivia in ignoring our rights and, therefore, we have sued to resolve the dispute,” Muñoz said.
The lawsuit asks the World Court to decide whether Bolivia has the obligation to “cooperate with Chile” and notify Santiago of any measures that could have an adverse effect its interests, the foreign minister said.
La Paz recognized the Silala River as an international waterway until 1997, when it changed positions and claimed the water came from the springs in Bolivia, Chile said.
In 2009, the countries were close to an agreement on sharing the river, but Chilean officials say the deal fell through due to Bolivia’s refusal to accept the terms.
Morales said in March that Bolivia would file a new lawsuit against Chile for “the theft of the Silala” and announced a series of actions to stop the river from flowing into Chile.