La Paz, Mar 19 (EFE).- People held vigils across Bolivia on Monday as the International Court of Justice in The Hague began to hear arguments in La Paz’s bid to compel Chile to negotiate the return of Bolivian coastline lost in a 19th-century war.
The largest event started just before 4 am on La Paz’s Plaza Murillo, in front of the presidential palace and congress.
The vigil began with a ceremonial offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth) by indigenous Aymara elders around a bonfire with senior officials and military officers in attendance.
Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera presided over the vigil in the absence of head of state Evo Morales, who accompanied the Bolivian delegation to the Netherlands.
The traditional rite took place just before live images of the ICJ proceedings began to appear on a giant screen installed for the occasion.
Besides the gatherings inside the Andean nation, Bolivian expatriates organized rallies in various countries.
The ICJ agreed to hear the sea-access case in September 2015, rejecting Chile’s argument that the character of Bolivia’s access to the Pacific Ocean had been settled by a 1904 treaty.
Bolivia lost the entirety of its 400 kilometers (250 miles) of coastline and 120,000 square kilometers (about 46,330 square miles) of territory in total to Chile as a consequence of its 1879-1880 participation in the War of the Pacific.
But the Morales administration contends that Bolivia was not a belligerent in that conflict.
“There was no war, it was an invasion,” Morales said last week, insisting that Chile’s plan in 1879 was to annex a swath of southern Bolivia extending to the border with Paraguay.