Borderline Conflict Between Chile and Bolivia

–Researched and written by Katie Benisch

With its unusual territorial shape, Chile has much to cover with its border control. Chile borders Perú, Bolivia, and Argentina, with Bolivia being the one of most concern lately. Recently, two Chilean policemen were detained in Bolivia as they crossed the border illegally while on the job, and the countries are looking to better relations when it comes to crime and other activity at their borders.

La Nación of Santiago reported that the two Chilean police officers, Jaime Rubén Díaz Pezo y Nicólas Antonio Morales, part of the Segunda Comisaría de Pozo Almonte de Carabineros de Chile were detained by the Bolivian police. In the documentation of the arrest, it was noted that the men were in pursuit of a stolen vehicle, and once noticing the Bolivian police, they attempted to flee. The men were also reported to have been treated respectfully and that their human rights were recognized while being detained.

La Prensa of La Paz reported that Chile and Bolivia would be having a meeting about border control, specifically about this recent conflict, customs, implementing the Acuerdo de Policías of 2008, and Chungará-Tambo Quemado, a mountain pass through the Andes where Bolivia and Chile meet. Chile’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heraldo Muñoz, made the declaration for a meeting after Bolivian president Evo Morales made his typical remarks against Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, saying that she has been “kidnapped by the Pinochet oligarchy.” However, the countries need to work together if they want to resolve conflict between their borders and fight crimes better.

T13 of Chile called Bolivia the “unpredictable neighbor,” opining that President Morales is hard to work with; rather critical of Chile, as seen in his remark of President Bachelet; and aggressive. The occurrence of this incident at the border has drawn more attention to relations between Bolivia and Chile, and in addition, it occurred the same day in which Chile was developing its first binational cabinet with Perú to show that they maintain good relations with their geographical neighbors. Chile does not want to be the “Israel of South America,” as they have been working with Perú, and Argentine president Mauricio Macri recently visited Chile.

In relation to the meeting between Bolivia and Chile, La Razón of La Paz noted that Deputy of Chile, Jorge Tarud, believes that the meeting should be held in a neutral setting. The meeting was set to be held in La Paz; however, it got moved to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. This change of location still has the meeting on the side of Bolivia’s border, and Tarud, one of Chile’s strongest critics of Bolivia, says that the meeting must take place somewhere neutral, such as Buenos Aires, so that Bolivia does not get any unfair advantage. Despite Tarud’s reasoning, however, there is no changing of the meeting location now.

In addition, La Razón of La Paz reported that the Foreign Minister of Bolivia, Fernando Huanacuni, said that he met with Heraldo Muñoz in the neutral location of Mendoza, Argentina, and that the agenda is finalized for the meeting. Huanacuni also stated that the work of the Comité de Fronteras (the Committee of Borders) will start in Santa Cruz and that the work will probably continue on Chile’s side of the border at a later time.

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