Bolivia Vs. Chile Part 2: Evo Morales Sues Over Water Rights Again, But This Time The Roles Are Swapped

Bolivia Vs. Chile is one of the few Latin American head-to-heads more likely to conjure up visions of court rooms than soccer stadiums. The two are still awaiting a verdict from the United Nations over whether or not Chile will have to allow Bolivia access to the Pacific Ocean.

Now, a renewed effort by Bolivian president Evo Morales has once again made the two countries the center of proceedings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Evo has announced that Bolivia will seek judicial action in the United Nations court against Chile for billions of dollars. Compensation that the president says its neighbor owes for use of the water from the Silala spring.

Morales claims that this water source is under the jurisdiction of Bolivia, but Chile cites that it is an international waterway that must be shared. The Silala River, which supplies it, is split between the two countries: it comes up over Bolivia’s side of the Andes and drops into Chile on the other end, reported El Tribuno.

Evo believes all of that flow is the property of Bolivia.

“We have decided as a pacifist country to go to The Hague so that Chile respects our water in Silala…We have justice on our side… and we are going to sue before The Hague to get sovereignty of the Silala waters.”

Bolivia Vs, Chile sparked by Evo Morales president
The Silala River crosses the Andes mountain rage that creates the border between Bolivia and Chile. [Image via Google Maps]
Chile has responded that they will be fighting Morales’ call for reparations at The Hague with full force. Chilean secretary general, Marcelo Díaz, told local newspaper El Mercurio that such judicial action was preventing his country from coming to an agreement with Bolivia. Furthermore, Díaz says that according to international law the river is part of an international waterway.

“If the Bolivian government wants to take this to court, so be it. Chile will respond with all the arguments in international law and countersue. Our country knows how to defend its rights in and outside of its borders.”

Bolivia Vs, Chile Evo Morales president
Bolivia doesn’t have access to the Pacific Ocean, and is already in a dispute with Chile to gain water rights there. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

These thoughts were reflected by several Chilean congressmen who threatened that Evo’s words would rock relations between the two nations. Sen. Patricio Walker said that the action was political posturing to save face after Morales lost a referendum to serve a fourth term as Bolivia’s president, reported 24 Horas.

“Bolivian president Evo Morales’ announcement is a firework trying to get attention off of the political failure that he suffered in the referendum that blocked him from being re-elected indefinitely, and, apart from that, the Silala River is already recognized by the Treaty of 1904.”

That reference, to a treaty from over a hundred years ago, indicates just how far-reaching Chile and Bolivia’s dispute over water is. It’s a tension that has kept the two nations from sharing full diplomatic relations for more than 60 years.

A huge portion of that bad blood stems from a war between the combined forces of Peru and Bolivia against Chile in the early 1880s, where Bolivia lost 120,000 sq km of land. That area later turned out to be filled with copper mines, and is now one of Chile’s most valuable resources, reported BBC.

Moreover, the final agreement cut off Bolivia’s access to the sea — limiting its naval trade to specified Chilean ports that Evo Morales claims have since been curtailed. Whether it’s the Silala or the Pacific, Bolivia Vs. Chile comes down to water rights and a century-old battle to define them.

[Image via Dean Mouhtaropoulos and Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

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