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Peru and Chile Await The Hague's Decision on Maritime Border Dispute

Mapa_Perú-Chile_para_mostrar_los_Limites_Marítimos_en_La_Haya_2012

Map presented by Alain Pellet in the case of Peru – Chile during oral arguments before the International Court of Justice in the Hague in December 2012. [The dark blue zone indicates the contentious area.] Published in Wikimedia under the license: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

[Links are to Spanish-language pages except where otherwise noted.]

The upcoming date on which the International Court of Justice [en] (ICJ) in The Hague is set to deliver its judgment regarding the controversy surrounding maritime boundaries between Chile and Peru [en] is generating tremendous expectations and anxiety in both countries. 

The controversy originated as long ago as 1985 in a dispute over maritime sovereignty [en] of a 37,900 km² area in the Pacific Ocean. In 2008, when the parties were still unable to come to an agreement, Peru took its case to the International Court in the Hague in the hopes of having the issue resolved. The Court announced it would deliver its ruling on January 27, 2014.

In 2008, the Peruvian economist and blogger Silvio Rendón commented that by instigating the lawsuit, Peru was signalling a new level of dissatisfaction in its relations with its neighbour to the south, and that this would only foster a climate of increased nationalism in both countries:

Lo más probable es que con este reclamo ante La Haya el Perú como Chile radicalicen su carrera armamentista y las escaramuzas de guerra fría que venimos librando desde hace años. Se trata de chispas que pueden calentar lo que ahora está frío. [...] Si oficialmente no estamos en guerra, ¿por qué se habla de hacer la paz? Es que sí estamos en una guerra, una guerra fría (ver Guerra Perú-Chile) que debería terminar ya. Lo diré una vez más. El camino del Perú debería ser el del crecimiento, no el del armamentismo (ver Triángulo equivocado y Ad “Triángulo Equivocado”). Perú tiene el 10% del PIB per cápita de EEUU y Chile tiene 20%. Deberíamos estar concentrados en mejorar el bienestar de nuestras ciudadanías y el camino a ese objetivo no pasa por la propiedad del triángulo marítimo.

It is likely that with this claim before The Hague, both Peru and Chile will intensify the arms race and the cold war skirmishes they have been waging for years. We are talking about sparks that could ignite something that, for the moment, is cold. [...] If we are not officially at war, why are we talking about making peace? It's because we are indeed at war, a cold war (see Guerra Perú-Chile) that must end now. I will say it one last time. The road Peru takes should be one of development, not stockpiling (see Triángulo equivocado and Ad “Triángulo Equivocado”). Peru's per capita GDP is 10% of that of the U.S. and Chile's is at 20%. We should be focussing on improving the wellbeing of our citizens and the road to that objective is not paved with proprietary wrangling over the maritime triangle.

Currently, beyond the legal arguments on which each country has based its position, there are those such as El Drac of the blog El Abrazo de Almanzor, who see abuse and manipulation of the claim by powerful interests who have the support of certain sectors of the press. Moreover, the blogger mentions the economic implications of the dispute :

Pese a que ambos países han insistido en que la resolución del tribunal internacional no afectará a sus relaciones comerciales, los empresarios chilenos han expresado su preocupación por el impacto que podría tener en la industria pesquera. [...] En el caso de que el fallo resultara favorable a la tesis peruana se registraría un impacto en el área pesquera chilena, ya que Chile perdería soberanía sobre una amplia zona marítima en la cual hoy desarrolla entre el 70% y 80% de la captura pesquera en la norteña zona de Arica, según estimaciones empresariales.

Despite the fact that both countries insist the decision by the International Court will not affect their trade relations, Chilean business leaders have expressed their concern about the potential impact on the fishing industry. [...] If the ruling favours Peru's contention, this will affect Chilean fishing, as the the country will lose control of a wide stretch of sea which today accounts for 70-80% of the catch in the Northern Arica zone, according to industry estimates.

The website Otra Mirada emphasizes that defence of Peruvian sovereignty has ensured a degree of national unity in the country, but it also raises the question of what the agenda for immediate economic development should be. To which it adds:

El fallo de La Haya definirá, entonces, un nuevo panorama en el país, por lo cual, se debe preparar una agenda de Estado que incluya temas fundamentales como: 1. Definir rol de las Fuerzas Armadas en la defensa de nuestra seguridad y soberanía en la etapa post La Haya. 2. Establecer una política de desarrollo del sector pesquero en esta zona del país. 3. Establecer acciones inmediatas sobre la situación laboral de los chilenos que viven en el Perú y los peruanos que viven en Chile. 4.Promover un plan de inversión pública en las regiones Tacna y Moquegua a favor de la integración sudamericana. 5.Definir políticas de integración económico – social y cultural con nuestros vecinos fronterizos.

The Hague's verdict will, therefore, determine a new outlook for the country, for which a  national agenda must be set, one that includes fundamental issues like: 1. Defining the role of the Armed Forces in our national security and sovereignty in the post-Hague phase. 2. Establishing a development policy for the fisheries industry in that area of the country. 3. Taking immediate actions regarding the situation of Chilean labourers in Peru and Peruvians who live in Chile. 4. Promoting a public investment program in the Tacna and Moquegua regions that favours South Amercian integration. 5. Formulate socioeconomic and cultural integration policies with our neighbours.

Meanwhile, as predicted by Silvio Rendón, there has been a recent upsurge in nationalism, evident in former President Alan García's proposal that the flag be raised outside homes and offices across Peru on January 27, the day when the International Court in The Hague will finally come down on one side or the other of the dispute. This has generated controversy, as the call was rejected by Peru's governing party and a number of Chilean politicians. However, García has defended his proposal, which was well received in other quarters, namely some of the country's provinces and districts.

Peru also felt the impact of the meeting that Chilean President Sebastián Piñera held with his National Security Council to analyze the potential repercussions of the ICJ decision.  Afterwards, and in the face of criticism by certain Chilean politicians, the country's Minister of the Interior, Andrés Chadwick, declared that the meeting “did not point to a situation of a military or bellicose nature.” 

Nevertheless, Chile's digital newspaper El Mostrador published information in July of 2013 about military preparations in both Chile and Peru in anticipation for an adverse decision by the ICJ or a situation in which one of the two countries refused to comply. More recently, the Peruvian pro-military blogger Report Perú publicized alleged early warning measures by the Peruvian Armed Forces. 

There are fewer than 10 days to go before the judgment by the International Court of Justice in The Hague; so many things could still happen, and rumours and controversy are sure to continue to abound. But one valid reflection was made by the lawyer Francisco Canaza on his blog Apuntes Peruanos, referring to a prior ruling by the ICJ regarding the territorial and maritime dispute between Colombia and Nicaragua [en], which resulted in Colombia not recognizing the Court's decision and withdrawing from the Pacto de Bogotá, a treaty whose signatories [a majority of Latin American countries] are obliged to resolve their conflicts through pacific means, awarding jurisdiction to the ICJ:

sin ser el caso Peru – Chile ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia de La Haya un proceso similar al de Nicaragua – Colombia, ¿Chile podría, como Colombia, denunciar (retirarse) del Pacto de Bogotá y así evitar la ejecución de un fallo “no ajustado a derecho”?

Although Peru – Chile, now before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, is not necessarily similar to the case of Nicaragua – Colombia, could Chile, like Colombia, denounce (withdraw from) the Pacto de Bogotá [en] and thereby avoid enforcement of a ruling that is “not consistent with the law”?

Post originally published on Juan Arellano's blog Globalizado.

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