Chile to expel 14 Bolivian military officials

10:55, June 20, 2011      

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The Chilean government announced Sunday it will expel 14 armed Bolivian military officials detained Friday for illegally entering Chilean territory.

The weapons they had carried have been confiscated and will not be returned, according to Manuel Guerra, district attorney for the border region of Tarapaca.

The government decided not to accuse 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. 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 Saturday apologized 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.

Landlocked Bolivia has not had a direct access to the sea after losing the 1879-1883 War of the Pacific to Chile.

Source: Xinhua
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