World Bulletin / News Desk
Bolivian President Evo Morales arrived Monday in The Hague, The Netherlands for the start of hearings over his country’s right of access to the sea in a more than century-old dispute with Chile.
A legal team of 30 experts is representing Bolivia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), hoping that neighboring Chile will finally grant the landlocked country sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean. Bolivia filed a lawsuit against Chile at the ICJ over the issue in 2013.
Bolivia lost its coastal territory to Chile in the 1897 War of the Pacific and still contests a peace treaty struck in 1904 that fixed the current boundaries.
At the end of the first day of sessions, Morales posted a message on his Twitter account in which he congratulated his team "for their great knowledge of legal and historical facts".
Their "work is based on international law, so the problems between Bolivia and Chile can be resolved with dialogue", he added.
Morales reiterated that in 1825, when the Bolivian Republic was founded, the country owned the port of Antofagasta, but during the war, Chile robbed the entire coastline.
"Today, 139 years and 33 days after the armed invasion by Chile on the Bolivian port of Antofagasta, Bolivia presents at the most important court of justice in the world legal and historical allegations to demand the restoration of its right of sea access with sovereignty," he said in another tweet.
"The truth cannot be twisted. The 1904 treaty was imposed by arms, but we did not come to negotiate this treaty but for unfulfilled commitments,” he said.
Bolivia stressed that many times throughout history, the Chilean government has offered them a solution to sovereign access to the sea after the war in which Morales affirmed that Chile took from them 400 kilometers of coastline and 12,000 square kilometers of land.
However, Bolivia has not gained access to the sea, so in 2013, a claim before the international court was issued.
Chile’s recently elected president Sebastian Piñera responded to his Bolivian counterpart, saying he is contradicting himself.
"Once again, President Morales is mistaken… because according to the treaty of 1904, Antofagasta has been, is and will be Chilean.”
The hearings will run until March 28 and it will be several months before a ruling is issued.