Aldo Anfossi

Special for La Jornada

La Jornada newspaper
Friday, September 3, 2021, p. 27

Santiago. The governments of Chile and Argentina are leading a diplomatic escalation over the limits and sovereignty on the southern continental shelf, in the waters of Cape Horn and the Drake Sea, with the foreign ministers of both countries making sharp statements, but taking care to emphasize that dialogue is the only possible way to resolve the dispute.

The controversy erupted after the Chilean government published, on Friday, August 27, a decree of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that determines the national maritime jurisdictional areas from Punta Puga to Diego Ramírez Islands, specifying the limit of 200 nautical miles in southern waters. and to the east of the Cape Horn meridian, claiming an area claimed by Argentina.

The trans-Andean Foreign Ministry reacted instantly, accusing Chile of “trying to appropriate part of the Argentine continental shelf and a large area of ​​the seabed and ocean, a maritime space that is part of the Common Heritage of Humanity.”

Foreign Minister Andrés Allamand replied to this, assuring that “Chile does not agree with the Argentine Foreign Ministry that the update seeks to appropriate, no one appropriates what belongs to it. The designated area, the legal continental shelf that reaches 200 miles, belongs to Chile in full right from the beginning, simply because we have the quality of a coastal state.

His partner Felipe Solá replied stating that what is claimed in the Chilean cartography violates the Treaty of Peace and Friendship that both countries signed in 1984 and that Chile has an expansive vocation that Argentina rejects, adding that it will correspond to resolve through dialogue in defense of the Argentine rights; In accordance with the historical brotherhood of our peoples and international law, Allamand came back, rejected the expansive vocation and assured that Chile favors a reasoned and constructive dialogue with the Argentine Republic and it seems unofficial to enter into greater public debate.

The dispute has its origins in Argentine decisions dating back to 2009, when it presented its own new cartography of the extended continental shelf, overlapping with the one declared by Chile in an area southeast of the limit established in the 1984 Treaty. Chile protested that such a claim it was unenforceable, that is, it cannot affect their sovereign rights in the area.

According to calculations published in Chilean media, the area of ​​the extended platform claimed by Argentina overlaps 5,302 square kilometers with the Chilean legal platform, which covers an area of ​​25,383 square kilometers.

Both Argentine and Chilean aspirations are based on the fact that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Sea (Convemar), grants the coastal states – a condition that both countries have – a territorial sea (12 miles), a contiguous zone (12 miles) and an exclusive economic zone that, together, add up to 200 nautical miles. This can be expanded to 350 miles if they verify that the geomorphological continental shelf is extended.

In 1978 both countries were hours away from going to war over the dispute over three islands (Lennox, Nueva and Picton) south of the Beagle Channel, a strategic area located between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Only the mediation of Pope John Paul II prevented the massacre and in 1984, as a result of that management, both countries signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which granted Chile ownership of the islands and the two countries rights to navigate the Beagle. .

Obviously, the strategic projections and pretensions of both countries towards Antarctica are at stake.

The diplomatic escalation coincides with the fact that both countries are experiencing transcendental electoral processes and there has been no lack of an analyst who sees chauvinist spirits or intentions in the mess.

In Chile, on November 21 there will be presidential, parliamentary and regional council elections, in which the Chilean right, led by Sebastián Piñera, will play its luck, with the precedent of crushing defeats in the constituent elections (37 out of 155) and governors (one of 16), both last May.

Argentina will have primary elections for parliamentary candidates on September 12 and legislative elections on November 14, 2021, in the middle of the term of President Alberto Fernández, and they will be a test for his government, which has been harshly questioned by the economic situation, the handling of the pandemic and the parties in the government house when the country was in a phase of mobility restrictions.