A group of Peruvian nationalists plan to march toward the Chilean border to lay claim to a small triangular piece of land they say belongs to their country.
While the dispute over the territory dates as far back as the 1879 Pacific war — in which Peru lost the Arica and Tarapacá territories to their neighbor the south — the latest squabble has roots in a January 27 ruling by the International Criminal Court in the Hague that ceded roughly 50,000 square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean to Peru.
The current issue centers around how the land border that sits to the east of the this maritime area is measured. The Chilean government uses a marker known as “Punto Uno” to draw their border with Peru, while the Peruvians insist on a marker 260 meters to the south known as “Punto Concordia.”
On August 19, President Ollanta Humala of Peru presented a map using the latter marker that incorporates the roughly 4 square kilometer piece of land into Peruvian territory.
Elloy Villacrez, director of the Patriotic Association for the Recovery of Arica and Tarapaca, agrees: “We hope to bring 1,000 people to the land triangle. We will move to the same area where we hope to raise the Peruvian flag in the territory that belongs to us.”
Chilean Defense Minister Jorge Burgos warned against such action. “It is always dangerous for someone to enter out territory without prior authorization,” said Burgos. He added that, if necessary, Chile will defend its “sovereign territory.”
The situation is further complicated by the fact that the area has yet to be completely cleared of land mines that remain from past conflicts.
As Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz put it: “It is an extremely delicate situation and I hope that an unfortunate event does not occur.”