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Skepticism and Expectation Ahead of Ruling on Maritime Boundary Between Chile and Peru

El 27 de febrero de 2014 la Corte Internacional de Justicia (CIJ) de La Haya dará a conocer un fallo sobre la controversia de delimitación marítima entre Chile y el Perú. Foto de United Nations Photo en Flickr, bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On January 27, 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague will announce a decision on the dispute about the maritime delimitation between Perú and Chile. United Nations photo on Flickr, under license from Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Just a few days before learning of The Hague's decision on the controversy about the maritime delimitation between Chile and Perú, it would appear that skepticism has overtaken the public, or at least those who share their views on the internet, unlike a few weeks ago when the atmosphere was more lively.

The divergence of views between Chile and Peru about The Hague’s ruling concerning immediate application or not may have contributed to the feeling that even with a favorable outcome for Peru, in reality nothing will change.

Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno stressed that Chile’s position is that “The Hague’s ruling regarding Peru’s maritime lawsuit will not be applied immediately, due to the need to review the changes before implementing them.” Peru’s position is that it must be applied immediately, [es] although President Ollanta Humala recently stated [es] that “implementation of the ruling will be gradual and in agreement with Chile.”

Another issue being reported in the Peruvian media was the situation of a group of Peruvian fishermen who remain detained in Chilean territory for fishing in the disputed maritime territory. These fishermen must pay fines of around 70,000 soles (approx. US $25,000) to the Port Authority of Arica in order to recover their ships and return to Peru. They currently survive thanks to the solidarity of Chilean fishermen and the efforts of the Peruvian consulate in Arica.

But fishing is not just limited to this issue within the framework of The Hague decision. While some sources speculate that the fishing industry would grow by 250,000 tons if The Hague decides in Peru's favor, others indicate [es] that, due to Peruvian regulations, fishing could not take 100% advantage of the disputed zone if Peru wins at The Hague.

Representatives of the industrial fishing sector (anchovies), who are asking to expand fishing in the territory bordering Chile, claim that “the Peruvian government doesn’t give us the freedom to fish in our own territory, a benefit that the Chilean boats do have,” which results in billions of dollars in anchovy fishing that passes from our sea to the Chilean sea, enriching and strengthening their fishing industry.” However, President Humala declared that the anchovy depredation is the result of the “big fishing interests (industrial fishing) that, ignoring national interests, have violated industry standards, destroying much of the biomass of our coast.”

It is precisely this fishing issue on which Soledad Arriagada Barrera, a Chilean living in Peru, focuses on in the blog Feministas [es]. Soledad contends that The Hague’s ruling “won’t change anything for most Chileans, except for a few families.” After explaining how the Chilean sea belongs to seven families, and how one of them, the Angelini family, would be hardest hit with an unfavorable ruling for Chile, she concludes:

sé que el 27 muchos y muchas celebrarán si algo se gana frente a Chile, porque se tratará de algo simbólico, que repara, que mejora… y se lo explicaré lo mejor que pueda a mi hija [peruana – chilena, NdE], para que ella también sienta esa reparación como propia… pero ojalá en esa pequeña reivindicación no se pierdan objetivos ocultos por los poderes reales que también marcan la agenda de este Perú: ojalá que acá no se hipoteque también el mar y que este proceso no sea también parte de la traición que los mismos de siempre vienen cocinando hace siglos en contra de nuestros intereses.

I know that on the 27th many, many will celebrate if they win against Chile, because it represents something symbolic, that sets things right, that improves things…and I’ll explain it the best I can to my daughter [Peruvian/Chilean], so that she, too, will claim this mending as her own…but hopefully in this small vindication, the hidden agenda by the true powers in Peru is not forgotten: hopefully they are not mortgaging even the ocean and that this process isn’t part of the same betrayal always being cooked up against our interests.

Moreover, the blogger Luis Fernando Poblete from La Sotana del Inquisidor summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of Peruvian diplomacy in this dispute. Among the weaknesses he mentions [es]:

hay un argumento de forma muy auspicioso para la posición chilena: el Perú acude ante la Corte echando mano de principios recogidos en la Convención del Mar de 1982, pese a no haberla suscrito, a diferencia de Chile que sí lo hizo. Y así como los argumentos de fondo (que nos favorecen) son importantes en todo proceso judicial, lo son también los de forma, y esto nos lleva a preguntarnos por qué nuestro país no es parte de la CONVEMAR. La respuesta que dan los entendidos se resume en una sola palabra: patrioterismo. Empeñados como estamos en nuestra declaración unilateral de doscientas millas de mar territorial, nos hemos quedado en la popa de un barco que navega hacia otro rumbo. Doscientas millas sobre las que –vale decirlo- nunca hemos ejercido actos de plena soberanía ni de vigilancia absoluta.

There’s a very promising argument for the Chilean position: Peru comes before the Court claiming principles taken from the Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982, even though it wasn’t a signatory, as Chile was. And just as the substantive arguments (which are in our favor) are important in any judicial process, so is the form, and this leads us to ask ourselves why our country is not a party to UNCLOS. The answer given by those in the know is summarized in one word: patriotism. Entrenched as we are on our unilateral declaration over 200 miles of a regional sea, we are left at the stern of a ship navigating in another direction. Two hundred miles over which—it must be said— we have never exercised full sovereignty or absolute oversight.

The journalist Enrique Larrea summarizes [es] the six possible decisions from the ruling, according to Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, the president of the Peruvian Institute of Maritime Rights:

1) El Fallo favorece totalmente a Perú.
2) El fallo le reconoce 12 millas paralelas a Chile.
3) El fallo le concede a Perú 12 millas de equidistancia.
4) El fallo favorece totalmente la posición chilena.
5) El fallo combinado.
6) El Fallo combinado con línea media equidistante

1) The ruling completely favors Peru.
2) The ruling recognizes 12 miles parallel to Chile.
3) The ruling concedes 12 equidistant miles to Peru.
4) The ruling completely favors Chile.
5) The ruling is mixed [for both countries].
6) The ruling is mixed with a midline equidistant.

And from the Peruvian border city Tacna, the young “Bictor Noel” tells us how things are going in the city with respect to The Hague, and the different positions taken even within his own family. He concludes by sharing [es] his mother's reasoning:

En fin, acá en Tacna, el número de personas que creen (y estimulan) seriamente el conflicto peruano-chileno es reducido. Definitivamente, los tacneños queremos que se haga justicia y se nos otorgue la franja que se nos debe aun a riesgo de ganarnos alguna ira del sur. Estamos, no obstante, confiados en que el grado de civilización a que hemos llegado impide las ideaciones más pesimistas de ambos bandos, más bien, lo contrario, la espera de una mayor amistad y cooperación entre estos países

Well, here in Tacna, the number of people who seriously believe in (and encourage) the Peruvian-Chilean conflict is small. Tacneños definitely want justice to be served and that we be given the strip we are owed, even if that earns us some ire from the south. We, however, are confident that the degree of civilization we have attained precludes the most pessimistic constructs from both sides—to the contrary, the hope of a better friendship and cooperation between these countries.

But he can’t help but imagine what he would do if he followed his father’s reasoning:

El día 27, si pudiera –ganas no me faltan- iría con mis amigos a la playa, alquilaría un bote pesquero y, apenas anunciado el Fallo favorable, izaría la hermosa rojiblanca y enrumbaría a nuestro ‘nuevo’ territorio acabado de rescatar, pescando sin parar, y me dirigiría hasta el extremo del ‘nuevo’ límite para allí, orgulloso, apuntar a mar chileno y desaguar el espíritu sobre él. Es mi padre quien sonreiría socarronamente a esta iniciativa, y a mí solo me quedaría decirle: “¡Gracias, viejo, por tener la misma sangre que tú!”

On the 27th, if I could—I’m certainly willing—I’d go with my friends to the beach, I’d rent a fishing boat, and as soon as the ruling was announced, I’d hoist the beautiful red and white and I’d head to our ‘new’ territory that we just saved, fishing like crazy, and I’d head towards the end of the ‘new’ limit, proud, point towards the Chilean sea and drain the lizard on it. My father would smile roguishly at this act, and the only thing left would be to tell him: “Thanks, old man, for having the same blood as you!”

Jokes aside, it’s true that the border cities of Tacna and Arica [es] are the ones with more expectations for The Hague’s ruling. While the Peruvian side has announced that police will tighten security in Tacna during this time, on the Chilean side, President Piñera has planned a trip to Arica on the eve of the announcement. It’s expected, despite rumors [es] of military moves, that the ruling will be met with calm and serenity on both sides.

Original post published in the blog Globalizado [es] by Juan Arellano.

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