By Maria Paz Salas
SANTIAGO, Chile (AA) - President Michelle Bachelet announced Monday that Chile has filed a lawsuit against Bolivia over water access at the UN’s highest court in The Hague.
The Chilean administration is seeking a ruling on whether the Silala River waters is an "an international watercourse" -- as Santiago contends -- that could grant them usage rights, or if the water source is a Bolivian spring -- a position held by the Bolivian government of Evo Morales.
"Unlike the legal suit brought forth by Bolivia in 2013, this action by Chile is based on a genuine judicial and technical dispute, which seeks the International Court of Justice to declare and confirm what Bolivia is trying to deny, that the Silala is an international watercourse," said Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz.
The Silala River begins in the Bolivian department of Potosi, and flows downstream into two rivers in the Chilean region of Antofagasta.
The Chilean government believes the waterway, because of the effect of gravity, flows into Chilean waters. For Bolivia, though, the Silala is a spring that is artificially deflected by Chile.
Monday’s filing forced Bolivian authorities to called an emergency meeting to analyze the lawsuit.
"If the Chilean authorities have values, they should ask The Hague from who belongs Silala springs," Morales said via his Twitter account.
The move was a surprise to most because Morales threatened last month to take the dispute to the tribunal.
"We decided to have the initiative," said Bachelet on Sunday in an interview with local radio, Zero.