Bolivia v. Chile: Ongoing Maritime Dispute

Illustration by Josh Taylor/Santiago Times

Bolivia v. Chile is currently a pending case before the International Court of Justice. Bolivia has brought this case before the International Court of Justice in order to gain a right to sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.  As the picture above shows, Bolivia is a landlocked country and has been since 1884. Before Bolivia was defeated by Chile in the War of the Pacific, Bolivia’s territory extended to the Pacific Ocean through what is now northern Chile. Bolivia has tried to negotiate with Chile about gaining the right to sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean before it brought its claim before the International Court of Justice.  Bolivia feels these discussions have been slow and unproductive. There have been recent developments with regards to this dispute.  Recently, Peru gave Bolivia a 99-year lease to a small stretch of coastline in southern Peru. Bolivia, however, wants to gain a right of sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean. Bolivia thought about bringing this matter to the Organization of American States but decided to withdraw the matter in the end.  Bolivia wishes to gain recognition for its claim and ultimately gain that right.  In 2009, Chilean architects proposed the construction of a 93-mile long underground tunnel that would run along the Chile-Peru border out to the coast.

Do you think Bolivia’s request should be recognized on the international stage? Should Bolivia’s claim be recognized by the International Court of Justice? How do you think the Court will rule in this case? What do you think are Bolivia’s reasons or arguments for wanting this right of sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean? Does Bolivia have any real persuasive argument as to why it should gain this right? What are Chile’s arguments for not giving Bolivia this right?


Source: ICJ

Image: Yahoo

One comment

  1. Upon reading this case, I immediately thought of the International concept of a nation’s right to high seas access through other coastal state’s exclusive economic zones. An island, for example, is allowed a small pathway to the high seas if they are in a situation where they are surrounded by other coastal state’s exclusive economic zones, for defensive military or escape reasons. When these ocean boundaries are drawn, this concept is taken into account. However, the idea of an easement for a landlocked state, through a coastal state’s land boundaries, in order to provide that landlocked state ocean access, is also interesting. I can see how international trade could be rendered less competitive for landlocked states. But I am not sure that it is an obstacle to economic development.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *