Bolivia has a history with Chile.
During the War of the Pacific, Bolivia and Peru united against Chile from 1879 through 1883. Being on the losing side of the war, Bolivia lost direct access to the Pacific.
According to the Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed by Bolivia in 1904, Bolivia lost territory previously connecting it to the Pacific.
To this day, Bolivians nurse resentment over the loss of their access to the ocean. Meanwhile, Bolivia’s erstwhile friend, Peru, has been unenthusiastic about working out maritime access through Peru’s vast stretch of Pacific coastline.
The treaty connected the Chilean port of Arica to the Bolivian capital La Paz, by guaranteeing freedom of transit for Bolivian commerce to the coast.
Morales presided over the implementation of a new constitution for Bolivia in 2009, which includes a provision claiming sovereign right to territorial access to the Pacific despite the treaty with Chile.
This week, Bolivian president Evo Morales reiterated his disinterest in respecting the international treaty which defines the borders between the countries.
Morales’ statement was admittedly lacking in legal precedent, or justification. “I’m no lawyer, and I’m not familiar with international law,” said Morales during his initial statement regarding the international issue. He went on to say that “what he can understand, is that the treaty [of 1904] is dead, because Chile has not fulfilled their obligations.”
It is not clear that Morales has any evidence that Chile has not conformed to the agreements of the treaty.
Chilean Minister of Foreign Relations, Alfredo Moreno, responded on Thursday, stating that “it is difficult to follow president Morales. First, he said the agreement has not been fulfilled, then he said it needs to be renegotiated, then he stated that it doesn’t exist.”
Alfredo suggested that he sympathized with the land-locked nation’s need for access to the Pacific, but noted that, “It is one thing to be generous, it is another to say that a part of your nation will no longer be national territory.”
He went on to emphatically clarify that “Chile is the Chile we know, and that will not change.”