Chile expels detained Bolivian officials, imposes US$50,000 fine

SANTIAGO – The nine Bolivians officials who were detained in Chile after being accused of smuggling, theft with intimidation, and illegal possession of weapons will be expelled from the country within the next 30 days.

Isabel Peña, the ruling judge of the Supervisory Court of Pozo Almonte announced the decision Thursday, also slapping the officials with US$50,000 fine which must be paid before they leave the country.

After their expulsion, seven of the officials will not be able to return to Chile during a 10-year period. The other two military officers will not be able to return for 20 years because they were found guilty of illegal arms possession.

Bolivia has rejected the claims, stating that Chilean police crossed into its territory and detained the officers while they were performing a regular operation against smuggling.

On Tuesday, the prosecution had requested three years imprisonment for the two Bolivian military officers and seven customs officials for alleged robbery and intimidation and illegal weapons possession.

The nine Bolivians were detained on March 19 when they were involved in anti-smuggling efforts during a border incident. Three days later they were preemptively imprisoned.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales said on March 20 that there had been a “kidnapping” of his compatriots and demanded their release. He also went to Organization of American States (OAS) to report alleged torture on the detained officials.