THE HAGUE, (Reuters) – Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero yesterday accused Bolivian President Evo Morales of exploiting their border dispute at a United Nations court to drum up support at home for his re-election.
Bolivia and Chile are facing off at the International Court of Justice this month in a dispute about access to the Pacific Ocean. Both politicians have attended hearings in The Hague.
Bolivia filed the case in 2013, aiming to force Chile to negotiate on granting it “sovereign access” to the Pacific Ocean, which it lost when Chile seized Bolivia’s coastal strip, including the port of Antofagasta, at the at the end of the 19th century.
Morales’s current, third term ends in 2019 and he intends to run for a fourth.
“The developing of anti-Chilean sentiments is a very important component of this campaign of president Morales,” Ampuero said in an interview with Reuters.
“It would be much better for the relations between our countries if the campaign of a presidential candidate does not interfere with the international relations,” he said.
Bolivia argues that, since Chile seized Bolivia’s coastal territory, it has broken diplomatic promises and obligations under international law by not officially negotiating about providing Bolivia with access to the sea – most likely in the form of a land corridor and port under its control.
Bolivia says it needs this access to boost exports of natural gas and minerals. But Chile argues that Bolivia already has access on favourable terms set down in their 1904 peace treaty.
“It is a very delicate situation when you … express so openly that you are not going to recognise the treaty that we have signed in 1904,” Ampuero said.
Chile will have its last day in court today to present its side of the case before the judges retire to deliberate. They are expected to take up to nine months to reach a ruling.
“We have come here after 139 years of being cut off from the sea to show the world that Chile is not fulfilling its promises,” Morales said last week.
The International Court of Justice is the United Nations’ highest court for disputes between nations. Its rulings are binding and cannot be appealed, though countries have occasionally flouted them.