This article was originally published by E-International Relations (E-IR) on 4 April 2017.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has made a name for itself as various governments across the world resort to it to rule on inter-state disagreements. There are certainly valid criticisms about how the ICJ, the chief judicial body of the United Nations, operates, particularly as African governments have accused it of imposing Eurocentric international law. Some of its rulings on controversial cases have even been denounced as ‘step[s] backwards’.
Despite these criticisms, Latin American governments have regularly turned to ICJ rulings on border disputes and other inter-state disagreements. Over the past decades, the Court has ruled on numerous cases between Latin American states and enjoys a positive record so far in this region, given the generally peaceful compliance of Latin American states to the Court’s rulings. Nevertheless, the complexity of one particular case, ‘Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean’, a historically-charged territorial dispute between Bolivia and Chile, may prove to challenge the credibility of the ICJ in Latin America in the near future.
Flag of Concert of Parties for Democracy (Concertación), a Chilean political coalition founded in 1989. Image: B1mbo/Wikimedia Commons.
Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s 2012 film No, about the 1988 plebiscite that brought an end to General Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship, vividly captures the tensions between a society’s need to be forward-looking at times of political transition (be this at the end of dictatorship or at the end of violent conflict) and its need to deal with past injustice. On March 5th 1988 Chileans were asked to vote whether General Pinochet should stay in power for another eight-year term. The film focuses on the television campaign aired by advocates of the “No” vote in the days leading up to the referendum. Veterans of the anti-Pinochet opposition, many of them victims of the state’s repressive apparatus, called for a campaign that would showcase past crimes: forced disappearances, torture, and killings. » More
Map of the maritime claims of Ecuador, Peru, and surrounding countries. Source: Political Geography Now via Wikimedia Commons
International boundaries are often blurred by the processes of globalization, but in South America some maritime borders remain contested. For instance, Chile and Peru, neighbors that have enjoyed sustained economic development over the past few years, remain at odds over approximately 38,000 square kilometers of sea located along their maritime border.
Bilateral negotiations between the two countries were first held in 1980 but no agreement was reached. In 2008, Peru took the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which, in turn, considered the issue at a public hearing in December 2012. The ICJ is expected to make a ruling on the dispute in mid-2013.
In the meantime, Peru continues to argue that the maritime border has not yet been defined by any agreement, with documents signed in the 1950s only relating to access to fishing grounds. Lima also claims that maritime limits should run diagonally south-west from the land border. » More
The ex-President’s death remains a mystery, Photo: Oscar Ordenes/flickr
When it comes to natural disasters, Chile has a troubled past. As the plume of ash from volcanoes at Puehue and Cordón Caulle continues to blanket the skies and force people from their homes, rebuilding efforts following last year’s earthquake have only just begun. Fifty years ago Chile was also the site of the most powerful earthquake ever recorded – the gran terremoto, at Valdivia – and initial indications following this latest event suggest that the geological situation may get worse in the future.
But if its history of geological instability were not enough, Chile is also struggling with its political past. On 23 May, in compliance with a court order, the body of former President Salvador Allende was exhumed in order to begin a formal investigation into the disputed circumstances of his violent 1973 demise.
There are many versions of the events. The official story – and the one accepted by Allende’s family – is that the President shot himself (with an AK-47 given to him by none other than Fidel Castro) shortly before rebel forces stormed his office. Another version has it, instead, that he was gunned down in a defiant last stand; yet another, that he was executed by a subordinate after a botched suicide attempt. But the man ultimately responsible (if probably not personally) for Allende’s death is General Augusto Pinochet himself, whose successful coup d’etat then saw him installed first as the head of the governing junta and then as president. » More
Building Bridges to the Sea? photo: Señor Hans, flickr
Earlier this week, Bolivia threatened to take Chile before an international court after Chile failed to respond to a deadline set for negotiations to settle a more than 100-year-old dispute between the two nations on questions of access to the Pacific Ocean.
Mr Morales was speaking on Bolivia’s “Day of the Sea”, the day when it commemorates its defeat by Chile in the 19th Century War of the Pacific: “Our fight for maritime re-vindication, which has marked our history for 132 years, must now include another element”, he said at the ceremony in La Paz. “We must go to international tribunals and organizations to demand free and sovereign access to the sea.”
Responding, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said that Santiago sees any negotiation on this matter with La Paz as a “serious obstacle” to their already strained relations. “Bolivia cannot expect a direct, frank and sincere dialogue while it simultaneously manifests its intention to go to international tribunals,” he said. » More