August 5, 2021

The adverse ruling of The Hague makes Bolivia turn its gaze to the Atlantic

The adverse ruling of The Hague makes Bolivia turn its gaze to the Atlantic

The possibility that Bolivia has sovereign access to the Atlantic Ocean and to break the dependence on Chilean ports is to strengthen the Bolivian enclaves in the Paraguay-Paraná basin and transform it into a river corridor of integration, according to foreign trade expert Gary Rodríguez

In an interview with Efe, Rodríguez, who is general manager of the Bolivian Foreign Trade Institute (IBCE), proposed making the waterway "become the main river corridor" for the integration of the Southern Cone, with support from the Bolivian government.

"This would have a geopolitical, geostrategic and geoeconomic connotation," he said, since that waterway is shared by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as Bolivia.

Rodriguez raised that horizon before the "new scenario" that for many is of "defeat and frustration", after knowing the sentence of the International Court of Justice of The Hague.

The United Nations court dismissed the Bolivian lawsuit last Monday, failing to find sufficient elements to force Chile to negotiate an access to the Pacific Ocean in favor of Bolivia, in an unappealable ruling.

In this context, Rodríguez assured that an access from Bolivia to the Atlantic can allow Bolivian "diminishing dependence" on Chilean ports, have a "truly sovereign" exit to the sea and have port services in its own territory.

Bolivia has a 48-kilometer strip, in the so-called triangle Dionisio Foianini, on the Paraguay River on the border with Brazil, with four enclaves, three of them private and Puerto Busch, administered by the Bolivian Navy.

The president of the country, Evo Morales, raised last Tuesday "accelerate" the development of Puerto Busch after referring to the ruling of the court in The Hague.

The announcement by the head of state, despite the context of his explanation, caused "good pleasure", according to Rodríguez.

Morales also referred to accelerating the construction of the Bioceanic Railway Corridor, which seeks to link the Brazilian port of Santos with the Peruvian port of Ilo through Bolivia, along some 3,755 kilometers with an investment of close to 14,000 million dollars.

At the discretion of the head of the IBCE, the exit to the Atlantic by Puerto Busch is not a solution in the short or medium term, since it is still an "incipient port" with a small dock useful for the export of raw iron.

"Our suggestion is that in parallel, when working with Ilo and building Puerto Busch, we will strengthen the three private ports we have," he said.

According to the manager, the ports Aguirre, Gravetal and Jennifer, the latter recently certified as international, transported 1.6 tons last year, of which 1.1 were export products, which are a reference of their potential.

Rodriguez pointed out that the alternative to the Atlantic requires an investment of some 600 million dollars, to which must be added the construction of a communication route, including a railway.

In this regard, he insisted on pointing out that it is a response to a "need to break" with the "Bolivian serious dependence and vulnerability" of the Chilean ports of Arica, Iquique and Antofagasta.

"That 3.8 million tons of Bolivian foreign trade cargo are made viable through the Pacific and through these ports, is definitely something that must be solved," he warned.

The business manager added that between 2013 and 2017 "there were a total of 62 stoppages in Chilean ports", which caused Bolivian foreign trade an economic damage of 300 million dollars.


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