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Atacama border dispute

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Atacama_1879.jpg
Peru, Bolivia and Chile before the 1879 War

The Atacama border dispute began in the 1800s over the Atacama corridor, a part of the Atacama Desert which now forms northern Chile. The Atacama Desert is bordered by the Coast Range on the west and the Andes on the east. The geography of the area was a very large factor in determining how the border dispute began. Because of the mountains, the area has rains only 2 to 4 times a century, making it one of the driest places on Earth.

Boundaries in the Atacama region were never really determined. When nitrates and copper were discovered there, it was claimed by Bolivia and Chile. Nitrates are used in fertilizer, and copper could be mined, so both countries wanted the area.

A treaty was made in 1874 that allowed each country to mine part of it, and The Government of Bolivia wouldn’t raise taxes on Chilean products for 25 years. Four years later, Another Bolivian Government rejected the treaty and attempted to raise taxes on a Chilean nitrate company, so the Chilean army occupied Antofagasta, a Bolivian city. Chile declared war on Bolivia in March 1879, and on Peru in May 1879, therefore starting the War of the Pacific.

By the end of the war, Chile had captured the Atacama corridor as well as the province of Antofagasta, turning Bolivia into a landlocked state.

Bolivia has since reactivated its claim to the Atacama corridor, ceded to Chile in 1884. Chile rejects these claims offering instead unrestricted but not sovereign maritime access through the territory for the export of Bolivian natural gas and other commodities.

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