Chile files countersuit with ICJ against Bolivia over Silala River


Chile filed a countersuit this Friday with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Bolivia’s claim to sovereign maritime access to the Pacific Ocean by waters of the Silala River, even where it flows through Chilean territory, which La Paz entered last August 2018.

Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero told a press conference that agent Ximena Fuentes had delivered a copy of the countersuit to ICJ headquarters in The Hague.

“The document very clearly shows how convincing Chile’s position is. It is an irrefutable position based on international law and scientific evidence,” Ampuero said.

The delivery of the document forms part of the second stage of the case, with which seeks the international court’s recognition that the Silala River, on Chile’s border with Bolivia, is an international river and that Chile has every right to use its waters in a reasonable and equitable manner.

The Bolivian government must deliver a copy of its appeal by May 15 at the latest.

Chile presented its original claim in 2016 and Bolivia filed its reply in August 2018, when it also decided to file a counterclaim against the neighboring country.

Chile’s foreign minister insisted Friday that the Silala is an international river that “flows naturally from Bolivian territory to Chilean territory.”

“It flows down a considerable slope of more than 140 meters (460 feet) from the first springs of the Silala River to the point where it crosses into Chile,” and which, Ampuero said, is due to “the law of gravity.”

Ampuero said that Bolivia “has put a new spin on its position,” because last August, the foreign minister said, President Evo Morales admitted the existence of a natural flow of Silala waters toward Chilean territory.

“This has very important consequences,” Ampuero said, noting that his country has never changed its position since it presented ts original claim.

Bolivia argues that Silala waters were originally springs, but were diverted artificially with canals toward the border thanks to Chilean construction works on Bolivian territory in the early 20th century.

Late last January, the foreign minister and experts in charge of Chile’s own countersuit traveled to the border between Chile and Bolivia to observe, from the Andes to the Atacama Desert, the course of the Silala from one country to the other.