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Timeline: The Chile-Bolivia Silala River case

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, December 01, 2022
Timeline: The Chile-Bolivia Silala River case

The International Court of Justice in The Hague declared the Silala River an international waterway and ruled that Chile does not have to compensate Bolivia for using its water.

Bolivia claimed it is entitled to compensation because the 8.5km river originates in the country. Some 4.7km are in Chilean territory.

BNamericas presents the timeline that led to the ruling.

2016 

March 23

Bolivia’s then-president Evo Morales ordered studying legal actions against Chile over the usage of Silala water, claiming Bolivia must receive compensation from its neighbor.

In parallel, the ICJ processed a case by Bolivia demanding Chile negotiate sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.

March 28

Chile’s then-president Michelle Bachelet responded her country will file a counterclaim if Bolivia moved ahead with its Silala demands, seeking to get the river declared an international resource. 

June 6

Anticipating Bolivian action, Chile sued Bolivia and filed a request with the ICJ to declare the river an international resource.

Chile also asked the court to confirm Bolivia’s obligations to cooperate on the river’s conservation and take measures to prevent damage to Chile resulting from Bolivian activity. 

June 7

Morales announced a countersuit. 

2017 

July 3

Chile formally submitted evidence to bolster its position.

2018 

August 31

Bolivia announced a countersuit, claiming the Silala River is actually a spring that was artificially diverted into Chilean territory a century ago and that Chile has to compensate Bolivia for using its waters.

October 1

The court ruled in Chile’s favor regarding access to the Pacific, saying Chile was not obliged to negotiate. 

2020 

April 23

The court suspended all proceedings related to the claims due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

2022

April 1-14

Oral arguments were heard. 

December 1

The ICJ delivered a favorable verdict for Chile, dismissing Bolivia’s countersuit.

It also urged both countries to cooperate on river protection. 

In response, Chile’s President Gabriel Boric said in a statement the road is now clear to improve relations with Bolivia. 

Rogelio Mayta, Bolivia’s foreign minister, said the ruling is being analyzed, and that the ICJ clarified Bolivia is entitled to use the water, state agency ABI reported. 

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