Peru-Chile Maritime Border Decision May Have Come Too Late for Bolivia

Peru-Chile Maritime Border Decision May Have Come Too Late for Bolivia

The recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision on the Chilean-Peruvian maritime boundary dispute closed one chapter of a trilateral territorial dispute that has festered among Chile, Peru and Bolivia for more than a century. But while Chile and Peru mend fences, similar progress between Chile and Bolivia has not materialized. Less than a decade ago, geopolitical tensions surrounding the dispute played a part in blocking Bolivia from participating in a clear market solution to Chile’s natural gas crisis. Today, that dynamic has deteriorated for Bolivia: The region’s shifting energy market realities have removed what leverage Bolivia had in its negotiations with Chile, making a bilateral territorial settlement less likely.

Last week, the International Court of Justice in The Hague handed down its decision delineating the maritime boundary between Chile and Peru. The boundary dispute is a legacy of the War of the Pacific, fought among Chile, Peru and Bolivia from 1879 to 1893 over control of the lucrative mineral deposits in the Atacama Desert. The war ended in the Treaty of Ancon, which gave Chile control of Peru’s Arica province as well as Bolivia’s Litoral department, effectively removing Bolivia’s only coastline.

If the ICJ’s most recent decision is implemented, as the two sides have indicated will be the case, it will be the latest of many steps that have deepened cooperation between Chile and Peru in the past two decades. Most notably, in 2011 the two countries joined Colombia and Mexico to form the Pacific Alliance. This regional association, which now includes 26 observer nations, aims to promote greater economic integration among its members, including the free movement of goods, services, capital and people.

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