The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Bolivia: now the generals step in over the claim against Chile
As has been mentioned here more than once, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela fancies himself rotten when it comes to pulling Uncle Sam's beard. His latest piece of troublemaking in the Back Yard was vociferous support at the Ibero-American Summit a few days ago for Bolivia's longstanding claim for a Western Hemisphere Danzig Corridor to the Pacific Ocean .
Easy to dismiss as a serendipitous combination of grandstanding and expression of gratitude to one's host.
There are signs that the story may have legs: there's a AFP story today that
El ministro de Defensa, Gonzalo Arredondo, y el comandante en Jefe de las Fuerzas Armadas, Luis Aranda Granados, coincidieron en afirmar, por separado, que Perú debe emitir un pronunciamiento oficial sobre el tema marítimo para comenzar una negociación diplomática con Chile, con la mediación de los países de la región.
As I've suggested before, though the country has had military dictatorships a-plenty, the current contingent of Bolivian brass are not in party mood: the story was that a substantial number of junior officers supported the revolt that toppled former president Sánchez de Lozada last month; and it's 21 years since the last dictator goose-stepped down from the presidential podium.
The Atacama Corridor claim gives the military cover for renewed friskiness, however: it is likely to unite large swathes of the Bolivian people - even coca-growers leader Evo Morales was quoted in April (first to come to hand) contemplating exporting Bolivian gas via a Pacific port with Bolivian, or even joint Bolivian, Peruvian and Chilean, sovereignty (though I doubt whether that offer is still good!)
And, whilst military action against Chile may be out of the question , in dealing with any deterioration in the internal security situation in Bolivia, the military may find a wag-the-dog element useful in justifying a higher profile on the streets. A kinder, gentler strategy of tension .
What would make this an actual story - rather than a concatenation of druthers - would be a statement of support for the Bolivian position from the Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo, or one of his ministers. An extensive trawl through the online Peruvian press has produced precisely nada. While a diplomatic war with Chile might have plausible benefits for a Bolivian government fighting a peasant insurgency in, say, six months time, I don't currently see what Peru would get out of joining in on Bolivia's side.
Slow-burner or fizzle? Dunno...
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