Border Demarcation Dignity: A New Era for Peru-Chile Relationships?


EspañolOn January 27, in a ruling with historical significance, the International Court of Justice in the Hague ended the maritime dispute between Peru and Chile. Moreover, it ended more than a century of border disputes between the two countries arising out of the Pacific War. This ruling should initiate a new era of peace and stronger commercial alliance.

With the ruling, Peru received more than 19,000 square miles of sea; however, Chile used to see a big part of that area as international waters. Chile only considered approximately 8,000 square miles to be an exclusive economic zone, but not its territorial sea.

Therefore, Chile has safeguarded its most pressing interests, keeping the first 12 miles of sea that it considers as part of its territory, and which run in a parallel line from Milestone 1. It has also maintained the area’s most valuable fishing zone, having extended this parallel line up to mile 80.

Source: El Comercio.

It is worth noting that the governments of both countries have shown they are able to resolve their differences within the framework of international law. Actually, just days after the ruling, the presidents of both countries met in Havana during the second summit of CELAC, and issued a joint statement setting out the steps to implement the decision of the Court.

However, as any decision on borders, this ruling has raised different opinions and emotions. On the one hand, the Chilean president himself, Sebastián Piñera, referring to the sea area ceded to Peru, said: “Ceding this area was a sad loss for our country.” On the other, while in Peru the news was taken with greater optimism, there was no shortage of opinions contrary to the ruling. Congressman Jorge Rimarachín held a banner in Congress that read: “Alfonso Ugarte, Bolognesi and Grau shall judge you!” referring to Peruvian heroes of the Pacific War.

But besides these events, the truth is that the presidents of both countries pledged to enforce the ruling promptly. In that sense, the first “2+2 Meeting” in Santiago, as the meetings of the foreign and defense ministers of both countries are referred to, is a good start. These aim to determine the points that will be used to delineate the maritime boundary and its cartographic representation.

With the establishment of a work timetable, it is expected that by the end of March, after establishing all delineation points, a second meeting will be held in Lima. Notably, Jorge Burgos, appointed as defense minister by President-elect Michelle Bachelet and a guest participant in the meeting, said that intense work proceeded smoothly in a serious and friendly atmosphere.

Even after these positive steps, there has been in recent days a complaint by Chile on the so-called “land triangle.” This field of only 3.7 hectares, which was established taking into account the Concordia Point and Milestone 1 (points demarcating the land border between the two countries), has not been the subject of a decision by the Court as it has only limited itself to the determination of the maritime boundary between the two countries.

The land borders had been defined by the Treaty of 1929. So in section 175 of the resolution, the Court states that “the Court is not called upon to take a position regarding the location of Concordia Point, where the land border between the two sides starts. The Court notes that it is possible that the point mentioned above does not match the starting point of the maritime boundary, as defined.”

Nevertheless, Chile has announced that it will send a note of protest through its Foreign Ministry regarding the existence of maps of Peru that include this triangle as part of Peruvian territory. Hopefully this issue will be resolved through diplomatic channels.

President of Chile Sebastián Piñera (left) and President of Peru Ollanta Humala (right). Sourcee: Panoamericana.

But beyond everything stated above, what really should be of concern to both countries is the improvement of trade relations and common development and the opening of our borders. According to figures from the Peruvian-Chilean Chamber of Commerce, trade between the two countries was approximately US$3.8 billion for 2011, $3.6 billion for 2012, and through until November, 2013, it had already surpassed $3 billion again.

The Peruvian expat community in Chile, with more than 100,000 people, is the largest foreign community in Chile. Also, according to estimates of the National Chamber of Commerce, Production, Tourism and Services, Peruvian investments in Chile amount to about $10 billion, while Chilean investments in Peru exceeded $13.6 billion at the end of 2013. And let’s not forget that both countries also have a Free Trade Agreement and are partners in the Pacific Alliance, a major regional integration initiative that brings together the Latin-American democracies that have progressed the most in recent years.

Both countries must ensure that these relationships are not affected by “idiosyncratic shocks.” The decision of the court should be handled in the best possible way, politically and diplomatically, within a framework of mutual respect. Finally, it is true, as Alfredo Bullard said, that peace is generated within a framework of inclusive interaction where borders do not impede the movement of people, goods and capital; because what is crucial for development is not what we stop at the borders, but what we let skip them.

Subscribe free to our daily newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news, updates and special reports delivered directly to your inbox.
You can unsubscribe at any time