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Table of Contents   - Piledriving the Patriarchy   - Risk and Respect   - Turned Away   - United in Sisterhood   - The Defeated "Master of War"
Table of Contents   - A Messy Success   - Tuned Out   - Daybreak   - A World of Difference   - Small Loans Big Difference
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Bolivia lost its coast after the War of the Pacific in 1884, straining international relations and limiting economic growth. In 2010, the country gained access to a port — one step in a long struggle.

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   Sparkling gold, the statue of Colonel Eduardo Abaroa Hidalgo looks out on the water of Lake Titicaca. With an unchanging expression, the Abaroa statue symbolizes Bolivia's 126-year-old call for ocean access. The sculpture carries a message that remains true today: "Lo que un día fue nuestro, nuestro otra vez será." "What was once ours, will be ours again."
   Abaroa, a national war hero, died defending Bolivia on March 23, 1879, during the War of the Pacific (1879-1884). His statue sits at the edge of the Strait of Tiquina, a 2,000-foot strip of Lake Titicaca that divides the small town of Tiquina into two sections. For 126 years, the lake has been the only piece of open water that Bolivia has held since losing its Pacific coastline to Chilean advances in the War of the Pacific. However, on Oct. 19, 2010, Bolivia reclaimed a Pacific coast when it gained a small piece of land on the shores of the ocean.
   In 2010, Peruvian president Alan García Pérez signed an agreement that seemed to end more than a century's worth of Bolivian frustrations. Under the accord, Bolivia has a 99-year lease to the port at Ilo, acted upon by Bolivia. But Morales and Bolivians hope to capitalize on this opportunity to reach the ocean, as many people blame Bolivia's economic problems on the lack of ocean access.
   Paul Collier claims that a lack of ocean access and a lack of successful neighbors is one of four major development "traps" that can hold a country back. In his book "The Bottom Billion," the Oxford University professor of economics explores the reasons why the poorest countries around the world are failing. "If you are coastal, you serve the world; if you are landlocked, you serve your neighbors," wrote Collier, a former director of the World Bank's Development Research Group.
   If Bolivia wants to export products such as zinc, tin and silver free from outside control, it will need more than just a port more than 100 miles from the rest of the country. This lease may be a step in developing its economy, but Bolivia is still far from recovering the losses from the War of the Pacific.

Locked in the land
   While Bolivia's neighbor Chile is becoming a world player and leader in lithium production, it is unlikely Chile will make any concessions toward the developing country of Bolivia. In October 2010, Chilean president Piñera and Bolivian president Morales exchanged pleasantries after a Bolivian was one of 33 miners trapped and rescued from a mine in northern Chile. However, Piñera has refused to discuss Bolivian ocean access through Chile.

   Bolivia could become a competitor to Chile in the lithium and natural gas markets, an area of increasing significance. Lithium, the raw material for rechargeable lithium batteries that power electric cars, has been referred to as the "next oil." But without the infrastructure to manufacture products and export them without facing taxes and regulations, Bolivia cannot compete. The U.S. Geological Survey dubs Chile and Argentina as world leaders in lithium production, and both countries have an extensive coastline. And while Bolivia has gained a port on the coast, it still faces obstacles to export free of taxes.
   Fernando Cajías, Bolivian historian and professor at the National University of San Marcos in Peru, said he believes the Bolivian government should try to attain a completely sovereign route to the sea. Cajías notes that although Bolivia now has a port, access is still dependent on other countries.
   "We arrive to the sea through Antofagasta, Arica, [and] Iquique [in Chile]; we arrive through geographic Peruvian pass or port, through the Atlantic by the Plata River, but we are always tied to taxes and the regulations that are imposed by the port's owner countries."
   "For that we ask for an access to the sea with sovereignty," Cajías said in Spanish. "We are an Andean country, an Amazon country and a Chaqueño country, but we are not a maritime country. It is very important to us to complement it. It is like having a table with only three legs; obviously, we miss the fourth one."
   Tomás Españolino, general of the Bolivian army and chief of the Bolivian Military Studies Department located in La Paz, said in Spanish, "We have had many wars: five international wars and two internal. But the only war that affected us decidedly was the War of the Pacific because it took away our access to the sea."
   The new Bolivian Constitution declares Bolivia's "non-waivable and imprescriptible right over the territory that gives it access to the Pacific Ocean and its maritime space ... and the effective solution … are the permanent and non-waivable objectives of the Bolivian State."
   Españolino believes the claim is justified. "[The War of the Pacific] was an aggressive war, absolutely unfair; we did not expect that from a brother nation. It affected the psyche of Bolivians, [and] that is why we do not forget; we believe that it is an injustice that has to be repaired at some point," he said.
   Although 100 years have passed since the end of the War of the Pacific when Bolivia lost its coast, Bolivia and Chile have not resolved their differences. And Bolivia, its people and its navy seem left only with a dream and a promise. "Certainly, every year that goes by it is more difficult," Cajías said of any changes or land being returned to Bolivia.

Chile: a strained relationship
   Right or wrong, Andrés Ramos, a Bolivian student, was taught one thing about Chileans and the War of the Pacific: "Schools have taught us that we the Bolivians are the good and the Chileans are the bad." In that war, Chile fought both Perú and Bolivia. But for Bolivia, the war left the country landlocked.
   But Ramos, a student at the University of San Andrés, or Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in Spanish, in La Paz, isn't ready to blame Bolivia's struggles on the Chileans.
   "We do not know what happened," Ramos said in Spanish, referring to the disputed facts of the War of the Pacific. "[But] it has provoked Bolivian feelings of resentment against Chileans."
   Ramos isn't the only one who sees a reason for bad feelings toward Chile.
   "We were humiliated," Cintia Consuelo Apaza, a student from the Colombia School in Tiquina, Bolivia, said in Spanish. "We lost something that was ours. It was not fair."

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  • Story by Marcus Scheer
  • Photos by Rachel Albin

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