García: Chilean president-elect will improve relations with Peru

Peruvian President Alan García said on Monday the election of Sebastián Piñera in neighbouring Chile will open a new chapter to improve relations between the two South American countries. Piñera, a conservative billionaire and Harvard-educated economist, defeated former president Eduardo Frei in a second round run off vote on Sunday, ending two decades of center-left rule in Chile.

“His success will be the success of South America and will involve much more than the common development of our countries,” state news agency Andina reported García saying.

The president of Peru’s Confederation of Private Business Institutions, or Confiep, is also optimistic that president-elect Piñera will improve business and investment relations with Chile.

“We believe that Sebastián Piñera, who is a prestigious businessman in Chile, can strengthen and increase business and investment relations between the two countries,” said Ricardo Briceño. “Above all, there will be more trust on both sides.”

Some political analysts, however, are less optimistic that Piñera will improve Chile’s relations with its neighbors and may increase diplomatic and social conflicts in the region.

“In relation to borders with our neighbours, Piñera creates a certain amount of uncertainty, particularly with regards to the Chile-Peru conflict,” daily La República reported University of Santiago political science professor Marcelo Mella as saying. According to Mella, Piñera said during the presidential campaign that if elected he wouldn’t “cede an inch” of Chilean territory, alluding to a border dispute with Peru.

In January 2007, Peru began proceedings against Chile at the International Court of Justice, ICJ, in The Hague. According to the ICJ, the dispute is related to “the delimitation of the boundary between the maritime zones of the two States in the Pacific Ocean” and the recognition of “a maritime zone lying within 200 nautical miles of Peru’s coast.”

Relations between Peru and Chile have deteriorated since 2007 when Peru opened its case on the border dispute at The Hague. More recently, Chile’s decision to build up its arms purchase and Peru’s accusation that Chilean military officers were paying a Peruvian air force officer to reveal national secrets have further increased tensions.

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