Bolivia Denounces Chilean Customs Strike as Treaty Violation

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Espa帽olAn eight-day strike at the Chilean customs service has not impacted on Chile’s international standing, although it is harming the exports sector, Chile’s Foreign Relations聽Minister Heraldo Mu帽oz told press on Thursday.

Bolivian trucks form a line as they wait for clearance at the striking Chile's customs offices. (La Raz贸n)
Bolivian trucks form a line as they wait for clearance at Chile’s border controls. (La Raz贸n)

Customs officials have been protesting聽since May 20, demanding that the government double their workforce.

The union said the strike will continue until they reach an agreement with the government, and rejected a proposal for a smaller employee increase over the weekend.

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca accused Chile on Tuesday of meanwhile breaching “their commitments and international law,” describing the impact of the strike as “a hard blow for the Bolivian economy.”

Choquehuanca, citing the 1904 Treaty of Peace and Friendship which contained provisions guaranteeing the transit of Bolivian goods via Chilean ports, demanded the “immediate聽suspension of those measures that are keeping Bolivian shipments from circulating.”

Mu帽oz denied any breach of the treaty and said the workers were exercising聽their right to strike.

“Many times, here and elsewhere, there have been workers’s strikes. That’s a right that has been protected for a long time,” Mu帽oz said. “But聽I don’t think this will聽impact on our international image.”

Wine producers, however, disagree with Mu帽oz’s position. Mario Pablo Silva, president of Wines of Chile, said the strike is preventing the sector from exporting roughly US$5 million worth of merchandize every day.

“The country’s national brand is of superior importance, and can’t be put at risk with this kind of situations,” he said. “The customs strike could have a heavy impact on our sector 鈥β燱hile the losses are still recoverable, in the long-term it could add up to millions.”

On Wednesday some 500 Bolivian trucks stuck at the Bolivian-Chilean border were released, but over 6,000 remain in gridlock, Bolivian daily聽La Raz贸nreported.

Victor Negr贸n, a customs official at the Chungar谩 border crossing, explained that they have been clearing Bolivian trucks at a rate of 20聽vehicles per hour since Tuesday.

Source: El Mercurio.