The foreign ministers of Chile and Bolivia met in La Paz last month to begin negotiations on an agenda that includes Bolivia's request for Pacific Ocean access. In an e-mail interview, Council of the Americas Senior Director of Policy Christopher Sabatini -- with historical research by COA policy associate Nina Agrawal -- explains the context for the Bolivia-Chile maritime dispute.
WPR: What is the origin of the dispute?
Christopher Sabatini: The Bolivia-Chile maritime dispute is actually over landlocked Bolivia's access to the Pacific Ocean. It goes back to colonial times, when viceroys had competing claims over the area -- the Atacama desert -- that lies today in northern Chile and to the southwest of Bolivia. When the South American military leader Simon Bolívar liberated Bolivia in 1825 -- and with it much of present-day Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela -- he declared Bolivia's sovereignty over the Atacama corridor to the Pacific Ocean. It remained disputed, though nominally Bolivian territory until the War of the Pacific (1879-1884) which pitted Chile against Peru and Bolivia. Chile won the war, and part of its spoils was Bolivia's access to the sea, the Atacama corridor.
WPR: How has it impacted bilateral relations historically and more recently?