Global Insider: Chile-Bolivia Ocean Access Dispute

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?

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