EspañolBolivian President Evo Morales sacked Defense Minister Jorge Ledezma on Tuesday over a controversial sweater he wore on a humanitarian visit to the Chilean region of Copiapó, which was recently ravaged by heavy rains and flooding.
When Ledezma arrived in Chile on Thursday, March 26, to deliver 13,000 liters of bottled water for the victims of the disaster, his pullover bore a logo stating “The sea belongs to Bolivia,” with a map of the country including the territory administered by Chile that Bolivia claims as its own.
Chile’s Foreign Ministry, Senate, and media voices were quick to condemn Ledezma’s faux pas, which he claimed was unintentional.
President Morales fired Ledezma and replaced him with former university rector Reymi Ferreira on the same day.
“We can’t commit these type of errors. No minister is autonomous and there’s no room for personal decisions,” said Morales. “I’m sorry, but I have to fix this situation.”
Morales went on to explain that a drastic situation such as the one facing Chile must not be used “for electoral or political goals.” He also apologized to Chile during the swearing-in ceremony of the new minister.
In turn, Ledezma, former ambassador to Peru, told CNN Chile that he had no intention to provoke Chilean sensibilities.
“It was a bit cold and I had to put on the vest. It was the only thing I had,” he said.
At least 23 people have died and 57 are missing after the heaviest rains in 80 years hit northern Chile in March.
Bolivia has a long-standing claim against Chile over the northern Atacama region, which it ceded to Chile after the 1879-83 War of the Pacific. The loss of the 400 kilometers of coastline left Bolivia landlocked.
In 2013, Bolivia filed a lawsuit against its neighbor at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which is due to issue a preliminary ruling on the admissibility of the case in the coming weeks.