THE HAGUE: LAW AND POLITICS

As if one were not enough, there are two pending cases that Chile has with Bolivia in The Hague. A case initiated by Bolivia where it demands negotiations tending to obtain an exit to the Pacific Ocean and another one initiated by Chile for the access to the waters of the Silala river. Regarding the first case, while the issue had been somewhat silent after the closing arguments in March, we are ad-portas to know the ruling and thus have the issue back on the public agenda.

The decision of the Inter-American Court of Justice is imminent. Faced with this, there is room for four big stages. The most favourable one is for the Court to declare that Chile has no obligation to negotiate with Bolivia, settling the dispute once and for all. The second option is to have it declare that it is appropriate to negotiate, but not to set conditions on the content of the discussions. A third alternative is for it to establish that there must be negotiation with certain conditions and guarantees. Finally, the worst-case scenario is that it forces them to negotiate with some mention of sovereignty in the issues to be dealt with. The latter is unlikely, as the ICJ ruled on it previously.

However, none of these scenarios implies a change in Chilean territory, much less that the Bolivian flag “flies in the Pacific,” as the Bolivian president has anticipated. However, despite the fact that the possible results are all far from what Evo has promised, it is to be expected that he will use every sentence of the Court to claim victory and use the ruling to do internal politics, as he has always done.

In Chile, President Piñera is again faced with the problem of taking charge of the results of an ICJ ruling over which he has little control. As with the Peruvian case, the Bolivian lawsuit and its processing took place, for the most part, during the government of the rival coalition. However, one of the principles of Chilean foreign policy is that it consists of State issues, where internal political differences take second place. Therefore, La Moneda must prepare a strategy based on unity, whatever the outcome. After all, even in the worst of them, Chile still does not lose a centimeter of territory and we should only continue the dialogue that we have always been willing to have.