April 15, 2021

A rectification or compensation, routes of Bolivia in its litigation before Chile

The rectification of the position of Bolivia or a compensation on the part of Chile are possibilities that are noticed in the middle of the controversy on if from the Bolivian side it has been admitted in The Hague that part of the disputed waters of the Silala go towards its neighbor naturally.

The litigation before the International Court of Justice in The Hague was first instituted by Chile in 2016, but in 2018 Bolivia responded with a counterclaim and a few days ago it had a drastic turn after a statement from the Bolivian Foreign Ministry.

The note ensures that the Government of Evo Morales allegedly admitted that part of the water resource over which Bolivia claimed total sovereignty also corresponds to Chile, something that could modify Bolivian arguments and that the neighboring country could use it in its favor.


Deputy Victor Borda, of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) of Morales, told Efe that the dissemination of that statement was something “inopportune” and “inappropriate” when the litigation is ongoing in the United Nations court.

Borda said that this “tax and express recognition” made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is opposed to the “factual and legal background”, which in his opinion “destroys” the Chilean thesis that states that the waters of Silala form an international river of shared use .

Some of these arguments are the concession granted by Bolivia for the use of water at the beginning of the last century and which died in the 1990s, artificial channels such as the aqueducts that lead the waters to Chile or the pre-agreement that in 2009 should be signed between both countries when Morales and Michelle Bachelet ruled.

“Actually, at this time, this demand is very complex and difficult,” Borda admitted, who along with other legislators of his party asked the Bolivian Parliament to question the interim chancellor of Bolivia, Karen Longaric, to explain the reasons for the publication.

Borda’s position is that after interpellation the interim government of President Jeanine Áñez can “rectify” what she mentioned in the controversial statement, which Chile considered “good news.”


The position is different in the Democratic Unity (UD) parliamentary alliance, which supports the Government of Añez and has even accused Morales of “treason” to some of his former foreign ministers and the Bolivian exagent before the court of The Hague Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé.

The Democratic Deputy Gonzalo Barrientos told Efe that the statement is framed in an attitude of “denunciation based on the interests of the country” and not by the electoral time in the country, contrary to what Borda denounces.

“The argument we have had as a Bolivian State has been to state that the waters of Silala flow to Chile artificially,” said the legislator who also represents Potosí, the Bolivian region where this channel is born.

Barrientos was also in favor of a reconduction of the case in the international court, apart from determining responsibilities and assuming the consequences of the alleged act of treason.


For the Bolivian specialist in international issues, Andrés Guzmán, the situation is not “so serious”, because Bolivia’s recognition “was something that was known” in Chile since the counterclaim was filed in 2018.

“It had not been an announcement as explicit and as clear as it has been done now in the Foreign Ministry,” the expert told Efe, noting that many people who were following the dispute already handled that information.

“There is a part of the trial that we are not going to discuss, because Bolivia has recognized the Chilean thesis … but on the other hand there is much to discuss,” he said.

For Guzmán, the meaning of Bolivian argumentation is no longer in sustaining the total ownership of the waters of the Silala, but in proving that Chile does not make an “equitable and reasonable” use of these water resources.

This could be based on the fact that the water of the Silala that Chile uses is destined for companies and not for the population of the area, that a large part is artificially led to that territory and that the majority has not used Bolivia and deserves economic compensation.

The controversy over the waters of Silala adds to the Bolivian maritime claim, which was brought by Bolivia to the court based in the Dutch city of The Hague.

In 2018 that court determined that Chile has no legal obligation to dialogue with Bolivia a sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean, which this country lost in a contest at the end of the 19th century before Chilean troops.

Claims for access to the sea and for the use of Silala waters have strained relations between the two countries for decades.

Gabriel Romano


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