|Monday, 20 June 2011 17:26|
SANTIAGO DE CHILE, 20 JUNE, 2011: Chile has expelled 14 armed Bolivian military personnel detained Fri June 17 for illegally entering Chilean territory.
The weapons they had carried have been confiscated, according to Manuel Guerra, district attorney for the border region of Tarapaca.
The government decided not to charge them as it would "not be favorable" to the already difficult relations between Santiago and La Paz, sources in the Chilean government said.
"This type of situation should be solved with a lot of prudence because it touches all aspects of international politics and impacts domestic politics as well," Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter told reporters.
The Bolivians, in military uniforms, were arrested by Chilean police in the Chilean border region of Colchane, some 2,000 km north of Santiago, the capital. They said they were on a regular border patrol to hunt for groups smuggling stolen vehicles across the border.
Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno immediately protested to his counterpart in La Paz, David Choquehunaca.
The Bolivian government on Sat June 18 apologised to Santiago, acknowledging a mistake by the military patrol.
Relations between Chile and Bolivia have been tense for years and soured further in recent months after Bolivian President Evo Morales announced he is taking Chile to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to demand a sea outlet, sources said.
Landlocked Bolivia has not had a direct access to the sea after losing the 1879-1883 War of the Pacific to Chile.