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Peru, Bolivia and Chile: Old border disputes die hard and keep gas exports on hold

April 10, 2009

Peru’s maritime border dispute with Chile, which is being decided by the International Court of Justice at The Hague, has sparked a war of words between Bolivia and Peru and exposed how geopolitical disputes dating back to a late-19th century war can disrupt energy investments and even force governments to fall as was the case in Bolivia in October 2003.

A map showing the maritime dispute between Peru and Chile. The blue line is the actual border and the red one is what Peru claims.

President Evo Morales, who said that Peru’s maritime claim with Chile could put in jeopardy his country´s chances of ever getting an outlet to the Pacific Ocean, made fun of President Alan Garcia’s weight. Contrarily, the Peruvian foreign ministry called Morales “a demagogue” and “anti-Peruvian.”

The old geopolitcal dispute with Bolivia and Chile has reinforced nationalist calls in Peru that it should not sell LNG to Chile when South America’s first liquefaction plant comes online in 2010.

Some analysts believe that interconnecting the mining-rich region of northern Chile with pipelines from Peru and Bolivia will only happen when their respective boundary claims are resolved. Even so, there is an oil pipeline that extends from Bolivia to the Chilean port of Arica.

Bolivia is still hopeful of getting full sovereignty over an enclave or maritime corridor in northern Chile. Some observers believe, however, this will never happen.

An old 19th century map of Bolivia and Peru by Charles Desinh.

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