Chilean Military Drill Ups Tension With Bolivia, Peru
Chile has begun to conduct a large-scale military drill near its northern border with Bolivia and Peru, and the war games are raising tensions between the three South American neighbors that continue to face unresolved issues regarding their common frontiers.
All the branches of Chile's military are involved in "Hurricane 2015," an exercise taking place that between Nov. 1 and Nov. 13, RPP Noticias reported. The soldiers, sailors and airmen taking part in the exercise will deploy some 1,100 miles from the country's capital, Santiago, and undergo training in the Atacama Desert.
Bolivian President Evo Morales complained the drill is designed to make an impression on Chile's neighbors, El Comercio reported. Bolivia has for more than a century claimed the so-called Atacama Corridor, which would give the landlocked country access to the Pacific Ocean.
"Maybe some conservative groups in Chile still think that, with this kind of exercises of the armed forces, they are going to intimidate Peru (and) Bolivia," Morales said. "They are wrong. With this kind of action, they only damage the dignity of the Chilean people."
The government in Santiago -- led by socialist President Michelle Bachelet -- was behaving in an anachronistic manner when it comes to the border dispute, Morales suggested.
"This is about understanding that we are not in an era of invasion but in an era of integration," he said. "This is not an era of domination; it is an era of complementation in order to work together."
Bachelet's foreign minister, Heraldo Muñoz, meanwhile, flatly denied that Chile's military exercises were designed to threaten the country's neighbors, La República reported.
"Chile does not need to intimidate anybody," Muñoz said. "We are participants of (regional) integration."
Muñoz's counterpart in the Interior Ministry, Jorge Burgos, meanwhile, went one step further and accused Chile's critics of intentionally distorting the nature of the drills, La Razón noted.
"To characterize a habitual exercise as an unusual occurrence cannot have any purpose that is not political (in nature)," the interior minister said.