Two Chilean fishing boats were detained near the Los Palos beach in the Peruvian province of Tacna after they were caught fishing in Peruvian waters. The boats returned to Santiago on Thursday morning. The case, still under investigation, forms another chapter in the ongoing of the tug-of-war between Chile and Peru over their maritime borders.
The fishing boats, identified as the "Brava M 490" and "Gracias a Dios II," were captured on Wednesday evening by Peru's Navy. Sixteen people, including a minor, were aboard the boats. All were citizens of Arica, in the north of Chile. Following the arrest of the crew members, the two boats were escorted to the port of Ilo, in the Moquegua region, where they remained for several hours while the case was being investigated. The fishing boats returned to Arica on Friday, after crewmembers were released. According to local fishermen, the presence of Chilean boats in these waters is "normal." The capture of the boats is symptomatic of a broader dispute between the two countries, and one that has existed for some years now. The basis of the dispute is a series of treaties signed by Chile, Peru and Ecuador in 1952 and 1954 establishing the countries' maritime boundaries. Peru's maritime rights encompassed all areas north of a line running due west from the Chile-Peru land border. While Chile considers the treaties legally binding, Peru disputes their validity. In November 2005, Peru's Congress approved a law to unilaterally slant the maritime boundary in a southwest direction to include some 35,000 km. of ocean currently belonging to Chile. The government in Chile reacted cautiously to the legislation, but said it was determined to maintain its ocean territory. It was largely expected that, had President Alejandro Toledo been succeeded by nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala, Peru would have brought the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. But when President Alan García came to power, this issue was indefinitely frozen. Another recent wrangle over land borders between the two countries has also contributed to tensions between Chile and Peru. At the end of January, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet signed legislation to create the Region of Arica and Parinacota, or Region XV, in the north of Chile. But the legislation also appeared to change the land borders with Peru, depriving it of between 19 and 35,000 square meters of land. But it seemed last week that friendly relations between Chile and Peru had resumed, and on Feb. 12, Chilean and Peruvian authorities will meet for the first time since the border dispute earlier this year. It is hoped that the case of the captured fishing boats will not further affect diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Santiago Times - News about Chile