International Court of Justice supports Chile in maritime dispute with Bolivia

World Today

The International Court of Justice in the Hague has ruled in favor of Chile in a lawsuit filed by Bolivia over access to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a feud dating back to the late 19th Century.

CGTN’s Dan Collyns has the details.

When the international court judges ruled 12 to three in favor of Chile, it took a moment to sink in.

Huge crowds had come to downtown La Paz to watch the decision on a big screen. After such high hopes, disappointment and defiance was in the faces of those in La Paz’s main square, where hundreds of Bolivians gathered for the International court ruling. But many now are saying this battle may be lost but the war to reclaim Bolivia’s sea continues.

The ruling, five years in the making, states that Chile is not obligated to negotiate granting Bolivia sovereign access to the sea. And it’s a binding decision, not open to appeal.

“It makes all Bolivians sad, especially the young,” according to Bolivian Sea Access Activist Saul Estaca. “The youth are the ones who dream of a sea but this decision hurts our heart. But we’re not going to give up. Bolivia wants its sea and sooner or later Bolivia will have its sea.”

Visibly somber, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales – who was at the Hague – said Bolivia would continue to seek dialogue with Chile.

“Bolivia will never give up its maritime demand. The Bolivian people and the people of the world know that through an invasion our sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean was snatched away.”

The 135-year-old dispute began when Bolivia lost its 400km coastline to Chile in a war that ended in 1884. Chile says the borders were settled in a 1904 peace treaty, and its president, Sebastian Pi era said Morales, had built up false hope with an unwinnable lawsuit.

“The demand by Bolivia’s government had no foundation, neither historical, political or legal, and that is why it was categorically rejected today by the International Court of Justice.”

While the ruling was a clear victory for Chile, it didn’t rule out future dialogue if both sides are willing. But for two countries that have not had full diplomatic relations in 40 years, genial discussions seem very unlikely anytime soon.