Bolivia’s Morales praises Chile on national holiday

Through his Twitter account Bolivia’s president Evo Morales greeted Chile on its national holidays, known as Fiestas Patrias. Morales used the opportunity to “greet the brother-people of Chile.” Specifically, he thanked “the Chilean brothers who stand in solidarity with the Bolivian maritime demand.” Both countries stated they look forward to the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling on October 1.

With the ruling on Bolivia’s maritime demand against Chile impending, President Morales took to Twitter to congratulate the southern neighbor on its national holiday, September 18, which marks the first meeting of Chile’s post-independence government in 1810. He not only greeted the Chilean “brother-people” but also declared a new “era of peace” dawning in the relations of both countries. On September 17, Morales, also via Twitter, called on “brother-president Sebastián Piñera” to “comply with international law and the rulings of the Hague Court.”

The ICJ will issue a ruling on Bolivia’s demand on October 1. Contrary to common belief in both countries – fueled by nationalist bluster – the Court doesn’t rule whether Chile has to cede territory to Bolivia. Rather, Bolivia has turned to the Court to confirm that the 1904 Treaty didn’t fix both countries’ border, while Chile insists that it did and that Santiago has honored the agreement ever since.

Meanwhile, Chilean foreign minister Roberto Ampuero, in an interview with Spanish news agency EFE, accused Morales of using the ICJ ruling for electoral purposes. This argument has been advanced by other Chilean dignitaries before, suggesting a common line among foreign policy bureaucrats.

Yet, this line ignores that Bolivia has pursued this demand for decades and that voters across the ideological divide support Morales. Bolivia’s president even reaffirmed on Twitter that the maritime demand has become state policy. Thus, as much as Chilean policy-makers dismiss Morales’ maneuvers as outbursts of a campaigner, and as shaky the grounds for Bolivia’s demand, the issue seems unlikely go away; not after the ICJ ruling, not after Bolivia’s elections next year.

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