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Formal end to oil companies proxy Chaco War 1932/35

Sunday, June 15th 2008 - 21:00 UTC
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Argentina will hand Paraguay and Bolivia the Limits Act which contains the final territorial and fluvial borders which emerged from the Chaco War, fought 73 years ago between the two landlocked and poorest countries of the continent.

The official ceremony is scheduled for next July first, following the Mercosur summit in Buenos Aires, according to Bolivia's Deputy Foreign Affairs minister Hugo Fernandez. Following the end of the 1932/35 armed conflict which cost the lives of over 100.000 soldiers and civilians, a borders committee was formed headed by Argentina with the purpose of rewriting the new territorial areas according to the results of the conflict which was victorious for Paraguay although a financial disaster for both. Fernandez added that on June 27th, the parties will sign in Buenos Aires the act of conclusion of the limits committee which has three hefty volumes with data collected during the last seventy years. "This will put an end to possible or potential border disputes because any misunderstanding will be addressed by a bi-national committee with special powers made up with members from both countries", said Fernandez. The announcement was done on Saturday in the Bolivian/Paraguayan border during a meeting of Bolivian president Evo Morales, Paraguay's Nicanor Duarte and his successor Fernando Lugo to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the Chaco War armistice. The Chaco War, 1932/35 between Bolivia and Paraguay was fought over control of great part of the Gran Chaco in the heart of South America which was incorrectly thought to be rich in oil. Though the region was sparsely populated, control of the Paraguay River running through it would have given one of the two landlocked countries access to the Atlantic Ocean. This was especially important to Bolivia, which had lost its Pacific Ocean coast to Chile in the War of the Pacific 1879/83. Furthermore, the discovery of oil in the Andean foothills sparked speculation that the Chaco itself might be a rich source of petroleum. Foreign oil companies were involved in the exploration: companies mainly descended from Standard Oil, backed Bolivia, while Shell Oil supported Paraguay. Esso Standard was already producing oil from wells in the high hills of eastern Bolivia, around Villa Montes. In international arbitration, Bolivia argued that the region had been part of the original Spanish colonial province of Moxos and Chiquitos to which Bolivia was heir. Meanwhile, Paraguay had begun to colonize the region. Indeed, both Paraguayan and Argentine planters already bred cattle and exploited quebracho woods in the area. Paraguay had lost almost half of its territory to Brazil and Argentina in the War of the Triple Alliance (1864/70) and was not prepared to see what it perceived as its last chance for a viable economy fall victim to Bolivia. By the time a ceasefire was negotiated on June, 1935, Paraguay controlled most of the region. This was recognized in a 1938 truce, signed in Argentina, by which Paraguay was awarded three-quarters of the Chaco Boreal. Bolivia did get a small strip of land that bordered the Paraguay's River Puerto Busch. Some years later it was found that there were no oil resources in the Chaco proper.

Categories: Politics, Paraguay.

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