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Chile and Bolivia make progress on de-miming border, but not on Ocean access.

Saturday, January 27th 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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Border between Bolivia and Chile Border between Bolivia and Chile

In a visit last week to Bolivia's capital, La Paz, Chilean defense minister Vivianne Blanlot announced plans for extensive joint military cooperation between the two nations, including the de-mining of their shared border. Still, Blanlot made it clear that her government would not budge on the issue of providing landlocked Bolivia with access to the Pacific Ocean.

The announcement came in a joint conference with her Bolivian counterpart, Walker San Miguel, who recently visited Chile. Bolivia has long been pressuring Chile to cede sovereignty and provide maritime access, but Blanlot cited Chilean public sentiment opposed to granting sovereignty. In an interview with Bolivian newspaper La Razón, Blanlot said, "The relative attitude of the [Chilean] population is rejection." A survey taken by Chile's La Tercera newspaper indicated that 74 percent of those polled did not support any relinquishing of territory to Bolivia. The dispute between Chile and Bolivia over water access rights has deep historical root. In the Pacific War against Chile (1879-1883), Bolivia lost its Atacama province and thus its access to the ocean. The two nations often argue over the use of the waters of the Lauca River (which originates in Bolivia, but flows through Chile to the Pacific Ocean), and diplomatic relations have been strained and sometimes broken at various times in the second half of the twentieth century. The conflict over Pacific Ocean access took an interesting turn in 1978, when a plan that would have granted Bolivia sovereign access to the ocean failed to win approval from Peru, which was to have joined with Chile in ceding a corridor of land to Bolivia. Relations between Chile and Bolivia have been rocky in recent years because of political unrest in Bolivia and a penchant by Bolivian politicians to use Chile as straw man for inflating nationalist sentiment â€" and distracting voters from the government's own shortcomings. The election of Bolivian President Evo Morales appears to have given Bolivia a moment of relative tranquillity, which could bode well for Chilean/Bolivian relations. The Santiago Times

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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