Bolivia, Chile reactivate Border Committee

LA PAZ – Bolivian and Chilean customs, border enforcement agencies, and foreign affairs representatives held a meeting this week, for the first time since 2011, to try and restore bilateral co-operation along a troublesome border area in the Tarapacá and Antofagasta regions.

The meeting’s catalyst was the 7 July detention of two Chilean Carabineros that were pursuing an alleged contraband vehicle inside Bolivian territory. They were released by the Bolivian Police two days later. On 19 March nine military and customs agents on patrol were detained by Chilean forces under similar circumstances, but were returned to Bolivia on 28 June after a lengthy legal process.

Some few days after the return of the nine officials to La Paz, the police arrested two police officers who entered seven kilometers in the national territory, but the authorities returned them to their homeland in just 48 hours.

Delegations from both sides discussed the possibility of adopting a protocol to resolve border incidents, such as those occurred in recent months, in which tensions between the two countries increased.

The meeting was hosted in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz.

Dayana Rios, director general of Bilateral Relations department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Bolivian delegation, made up of 37 officials from the Armed Forces, Police, Customs, Migration and other dependencies.

The Chilean representation, composed of 24 members, was chaired by Ximena Fuentes, director of Borders and Boundaries department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The idea of reactivating the meetings of the Boundary Committee, a mechanism emerged in 1998, arose from recent problems in border areas.

La Paz and Santiago have no diplomatic relations and have been facing old disputes since the war in 1879, in which Chile snatched Bolivia about 400 kilometers of coast and nearly120,000 square kilometers of territories rich in minerals

The meeting in Santa Cruz did not include State issues such as the Bolivian maritime demand and the Silala springs, which are currently in dispute at The Hague.