Bolivia demands release of 9 nationals ‘kidnapped’ by Chile

SANTIAGO – Bolivia’s ministry of foreign affairs has strongly condemned the detention of its nine nationals at the hands of Chilean carabineros, describing it as ‘an act of outrage and aggression’.

The Bolivian government has also demanded that Chile release the officials allegedly carrying out their own duties.

“In a flagrant violation of the sovereignty, police officers of the neighboring country (Chile) entered the national territory and arbitrarily arrested seven custom officers and two soldiers who were involved in the struggle against smuggling,” the Bolivian foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

The statement added that the Chilean troops entered the Bolivian territory without any proper authorization and carrying weapons, which constitutes a crime.

Last week, the authorities summoned Chile’s consul general Manuel Hinojosa to protest for such a violation and demand the immediate release of Bolivian nationals.

The incident took place on the eve of the presentation of the Bolivian demand in the International Court of Justice in Le Hague, as part of the lawsuit against Chile to achieve a sovereign exit to the sea.

However, President Michelle Bachelet has said the two soldiers and the seven Bolivian civilians were detained for committing crimes.

Bachelet, in an unusual way, appeared before journalists to reject the declarations of a kidnapping of the authorities of Bolivia. “It was in Chilean territory, committing crimes (…), a robbery of a truck with products and the intention to steal several more trucks,” said the head of state at the Palacio de La Moneda (Coin Palace).

The incidents were recorded on Sunday noon, when two soldiers and seven officials of the Bolivian national customs reportedly detected three trucks of Chile with goods smuggled in Bolivian territory.

Two trucks fled, according to Bolivian authorities, but the third was arrested in order to take it to the nearest police station. At that time, settlers and police crossed the border, arrested Bolivians and drove them to Colchane, the officials added.