In a landmark case, judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) redrew the maritime border between Peru and Chile yesterday, granting Peru parts of the Pacific Ocean that had formerly been considered Chilean territory. However, the United Nations’ highest court’s ruling on the maritime dispute left the rich, coastal fishing grounds in Chile’s possession. Both countries had previously pledged to respect the ICJ’s ruling.
Peru had asked the ICJ to rule on the maritime border in 2008, despite arguments by Chile that the border was legally set by treaties in 1952 and 1954. The ruling found a compromise between the two sides by maintaining “the course of the maritime boundary between the parties without determining the precise geographical coordinates," Judge Peter Tomka said.
While the lucrative anchovy fishing grounds remain in Chile’s possession, the ruling was celebrated in Peru as an issue of national pride—Peru and Bolivia lost territory to Chile during the War of the Pacific from 1879 to 1893.With the new nautical border, Peru gained access to shark and mackerel fishing grounds.
Bolivia filed its own lawsuit against Chile stemming from territorial losses from the War of the Pacific in the ICJ last April.
On Wednesday, the Bolivian government filed a formal law suit against Chile in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague to recover territory and access to the Pacific Ocean it lost during the 19th century War of the Pacific.
Bolivia has been landlocked since 1904, when Bolivia and Chile signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship to end the war. The war began with a disagreement over mining rights and escalated into a five-year conflict that ended with Chile annexing all of Bolivia’s 250 miles of coastline and much of the land abutting it.
The suit is only the most recent action in a dispute that spans generations and administrations. Bolivia, which still maintains a small navy and celebrates the Day of the Sea each year to commemorate its lost maritime access, has repeatedly attempted to regain access to the Pacific. The suit demands that Chile negotiate in good faith with Bolivia to provide a sovereign outlet to the sea on land that now forms part of Chile’ s Atacama region. Bolivia also maintains that the 1904 agreement is invalid because it was signed under pressure from Chile.
But Chile has never veered from its position that Bolivia lawfully ceded the territory in the 1904 treaty, which remains in effect. Previous attempts to re-negotiate the border have failed, nourishing lingering hostility between Bolivia and Chile. The neighboring countries last broke diplomatic ties in 1978 and have never reestablished them.
In order for the ICJ to move forward on the case, both Bolivia and Chile must agree to engage in the proceedings. The court’s decision, once made, would be binding on both parties. However, it seems unlikely that the ICJ proceedings will move forward. Chilean officials denounced Bolivia’s claim again on Wednesday, saying that President Sebastián Piñera will continue to defend Chile’s sovereignty and that the suit has no legal basis.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega proposed a referendum on Tuesday that would demand that the U.S. government pay $17 billion in damages to Nicaragua for its role in that country’s civil war in the 1980s. President Ortega made the announcement during a political rally in Managua to celebrate the anniversary of the 1979 ouster of dictator Anastasio Somoza by the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN).
The claim of due damages originated in 1986, when the International Court of Justice ruled that the U.S. had violated international law by “training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the contra forces.” It did not specify an amount for the indemnity. The administration of then-President Ronald Reagan blocked the ruling from being implemented through its power of veto on the UN Security Council. The charge was later dropped by former Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro in 1992, and Nicaragua never received compensation.
While Ortega’s proposed referendum drew support from a left-leaning crowd at the rally, Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, an opposition deputy, called the proposal “absurd” and said it would amount to nothing.
President Ortega, who has been in power since 2006, proposed the referendum amid the lead-up to November’s presidential elections, in which he plans to seek a third term.
Costa Rican Foreign Minister René Castro arrived to The Hague, Netherlands, on Thursday to file a complaint against Nicaragua at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Mr. Castro’s statements called on the court to help end a situation that he says "threatens imminent and irreparable harm" to Costa Rica.
Tensions between Nicaragua and Costa Rica have been high in recent weeks after Nicraguan soldiers entered the disputed territory of Calero Island, a parcel of land on the Atlantic coast. Nicaragua denies its military is on Costa Rican territory. Costa Rica says it has been invaded.
Also at issue is Costa Rica’s contention that Nicaragua has begun a dredging project as part of a larger effort to build a canal. Mr. Castro voiced his confidence that the ICJ—the UN’s highest court—will rule in Costa Rica’s favor on the issue. He also repeated prior assertions that Costa Rica “will not use any other instrument other than international law" to resolve the dispute.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.