Bolivia, Paraguay settle 74-year border dispute

Issue 

"This is a historic day for Bolivia and Paraguay, a time of peace and friendship, of solidarity among peoples", Bolivian president Evo Morales said on April 28. He had just received the Final Memory report, bringing to an official end a 74-year border dispute between the respective republics.

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, said this was a "transcendental step" for both countries. He called for further regional integration.

Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez, whose nation headed up the committee first established in 1938 to resolve the dispute, said the 1932-35 Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay had a "strong smell of oil" about it.

The Chaco War, a fratricidal conflict that left more than 100,000 dead, was stoked up by US company Standard Oil and Dutch company Shell. Both backed opposing sides in the hope of gaining control over assumed hydrocarbon deposits in the Chaco region.

While Paraguay gained control of a majority of the Chaco, both countries came out of the war politically and economically weakened.

A year later, the nationalist Bolivian government of General Toro expropriated Standard Oil for its role.

It was later discovered that the majority of hydrocarbon deposits that did exist were located in the small portion of land Bolivia kept.

Fernandez said the resolution was further proof "we are seeing the end of an era of senseless confrontations that only benefited others".

Bolivia and Chile continue to be locked in a dispute over Bolivia's legitimate right to have access to the Pacific coast. Bolivia lost access to Chile, which was backed by Britain, in the 1879-'83 Pacific War.

Bolivia is demanding it regain access to the sea — a demand supported by progressive sectors in Chile.

Negotiations over the issue, furiously opposed by right-wing Chilean forces, were officially initiated by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. However, little progress has been made so far.

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