In your court: Bolivia’s maritime dreams

In your court: Bolivia’s maritime dreams

138 years ago Chile seized a 400-kilometre chunk of prime Bolivian territory in the War of the Pacific, cutting La

Photo: Brazilian Navy

Photo: Brazilian Navy

138 years ago Chile seized a 400-kilometre chunk of prime Bolivian territory in the War of the Pacific, cutting La Paz off from the sea. On Tuesday, Bolivia’s lawyers will present arguments to the International Court of Justice in a bid to settle the century-old dispute.

The Bolivian government wants the ICJ to compel Chile to negotiate ‘in good faith’ to ensure Bolivia’s sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean is fully restored. Such a return is unlikely – no self-respecting Chilean government would give away first-rate real estate, at least not without some sort of reimbursement.

But Bolivian President Evo Morales insists his legal team will “demolish” their opponents on Tuesday. The emphatic leader has prioritised the battle to regain Bolivia’s coastal status, even inserting a constitutional clause labelling Pacific access an “irrevocable right”.

In support of this nationalist rhetoric, Bolivia’s 5,000-strong navy – which is currently confined to Lake Titicaca and rivers connected to the Amazon – has planned a demonstration through La Paz. It will be some time until they can return to the high seas (if ever).