Bolivia to release two Chilean cops arrested at border

LA PAZ – Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has announced the immediate release of the two Chilean police officers arrested at the border, following another incident which had threatened to escalate the strained relations between the two South American neighbors.

Officers were accused of commiting at least four offenses, according to the Bolivian Head of Senate.

“We have the opportunity to give the example and show that hatred and revenge can be defeated with tolerance,” Morales told reporters at a news conference.

The president said he made the decision “despite the fact that Bolivians were never treated with courtesy from the part of Chile’s government,” referring to the two Bolivian military and seven customs officers arrested in Chile in March.

They were released last week after Bolivia paid a US$50,000 fine.

The Bolivians were accused of smuggling, theft with intimidation and illegal possession of weapons.

Bolivia rejected the claims, insisting that Chileans had crossed into its territory and detained the men while they were performing a regular operation against smuggling.

In the latest incident, two policemen, non-commissioned officer Jaime Rubén Díaz and Corporal Nicolás Antonio Morales, from Chile’s military force were detained on Friday night.

The President of Bolivia’s Senate, Jose Alberto Gonzales, had said the men had entered Bolivian territory without permission about 8 kilometers from the border, in the southern province of Potosi.

They then allegedly resisted arrest and attempted to run away, he added.

Chile says the men were chasing a vehicle that had failed to stop at a police checkpoint.

“The Chilean government through its authorities has now made official contact with Bolivian authorities to coordinate the steps to be taken and to carry out the necessary negotiations so the Chilean police can be returned to national territory,” said Chilean minister and government spokeswoman Paula Narvaez.