The controversy among Chile and Peru for the sovereignty of certain maritime areas is a conflict that started at the beginning of the 19th century.
By Albeiro Rodas, Map by Adonde.com
The Colombian Passport. What many do not know or do not remember, is that Peru was actually the colonial capital of South America, at least from a modernist perspective. The today 8 million inhabitants Lima was the first and most important seat of the Spaniard administration for three centuries. The other thing that this controversy involves is Bolivia and its claim to an ocean part. For the last century La Paz have done a long and unsuccessful lobby to claim its sea and maybe for an external observer it could be seen as a kind of beg for something that is a Bolivian romantic wish.
Is that true? Checking history will answer the anxieties of our modern times.
At the beginning of the 19th century of course we had other maps: Chile was a real small and strong country and it has several mine investments in the Bolivian territory. Surprise: such Bolivian territory was what it is the north of Chile today, therefore… Bolivia had its sea at the time and the land was inhabited by legitimate Bolivians with cities like Antofagasta, Caracoles, Mejillones, Cobija, Calama and Tocopilla. To be exact, Peru and Chile did not have a border.
Map by Adonde.com showing the territories of Chile, Bolivia and Peru in 1879.
In 1879 the Bolivian government decided to raise the taxes of mine exploitation to foreign companies (Chileans and British). In at time where colonialism and invasions were seen as part of the “civilized world”, especially by “civilized countries”, Chile, surely with the British support, decided to invade poor Bolivia, with a weaker army. As Bolivia was called during the Colonial times “High Peru” (Alto Perú), it happens that the northern brother country tried a mediation in the conflict, but Chile was so eager to show out power everywhere, at the best Colonialist imitation and, knowing its power, declared also the war to Peru.
Bolivia had to abandon the war: not money and not a good army to face these little “Creole British” willing to build its own empire at the cost of its country brothers. Peru, that was anymore the powerful centre of the Spaniard colony in South America, saw how the Bolivian coasts disappeared and got a new neighbour at its southern border. Chile took the Bolivian province of Antofagasta and went even further eaten Tarapacá and Arica of Peru.
The setting is clear and made. Peru lost the war and had Chilean armies taking summer in Lima and bringing any thing useful from the ancient colonial capital to make Santiago nicer, like any bench of the square and images from the churches. History is history.
But things did not end in this point. Chile started the “Chileanization” of the provinces it took, expelling the original population. It is said that about 40 thousand Peruvians were expelled. These is the documentation that Chile has to show to demonstrate its sovereignty over the former Bolivian coasts and the south of Peru.
Picture by El Comercio, Santiago, showing the Chilean position.
The modern claim
Peru claims that there is not any formal agreement for maritime delimitation between the two countries. In the Maritime Zone Statement signed by Ecuador, Chile and Peru in 1952 gave 200 miles to every country. If such statement is fully applied, Chile should move its border southern, because it is passing the maritime line in front to the Peruvian coasts, making that Mollendo has only 80 miles, Ilo 40 miles, Sama 20 miles and Concordia any miles. In consequence, if you are in Concordia-Peru and wanted to take a swim in the sea, you will swim into the Chilean territory without any visa.
Peru said that if the international law should be fully applied, its coast line should be continued naturally, therefore going to 21°02’ South and 72°28’ West. However it would not benefit Chile, making the same problem but at the other site, it is, reducing the 200 miles agreement of the Chilean coasts. The proposal of Peru, therefore, is a border at the middle of the area, which means 37.900 kilometers (23.5499682 miles) to be return to Peru.
Here it is the dilemma of Chile: giving it to Peru, Bolivia will follow. Will be Chile ready to give up history? Let us see what happens in this long dramma.
Map by Adonde.com