By Carlos A. Quiroga
Bolivia’s demand for sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean was one topic president Evo Morales focused on during his speech, amidst management reports and the announcement of several public works, in celebration of the national independence day.
The indigenous leader, president for nine and a half uninterrupted years of a once before unstable country, announced Thursday in his speech to the Plurinational Legislative Assembly that he remains certain that Bolivia will have a coastline on the Pacific Ocean again.
“I am very hopeful; I am sure we will win this battle, so that Bolivia can return to Pacific ocean with sovereignty,” said Morales.
“I feel that, truly, we’re in good time,” the Bolivian president added. Morales stands behind the lawsuit against Chile at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, that seeks to begin a dialogue that may ultimately grant Bolivia access to the Pacific Coast.
The president’s’ optimism seemed to ignore the tension caused by a recent exchange of harsh statements between the Governments of Bolivia and Chile, including those between Morales and Chile’s President, Michelle Bachelet.
On Thursday, the Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz ratified Chiles’s conviction that the ICJ trial will not help Bolivia.
“I think it is clear that there is no chance, none, for the Court, either now or later, to be able to tell Chile to hand in a part of its territory. That will not happen, I can guarantee,” Muñoz said.
Bolivia lost to Chile a total of 120,000 square kilometers, including Bolivia’s 400 kilometers of coastline, as a result of the war during the nineteenth century. Bolivia calls for over a century to regain a sovereign access to the Pacific.
The “maritime claim” has gained strength in the government of Morales, who has achieved an unprecedented national unity around that goal. Furthermore, five former presidents have joined the team that leads the trial in The Hague.
“Apart from ideological differences with former presidents, we have coordinated very well” the Bolivian strategy of return to the sea, Morales said.