But this attention and growth caused some diplomatic problems. Obviously, with the nitrate boom, both Chile and Bolivia took an interest in wealth they could acquire from this area and began to negotiate the border. In 1874 it was decided that the border would be set at 24° S, meaning Bolivia would retain the area around Antofagasta, but would not tax the Chilean company that was already operating in the area. This arrangement worked for a short time, but when the presidency of Bolivia changed, Dictator Hilarión Daza began taxing the Chilean company more heavily.
Angry over the breached agreement, the media and popular sectors called for Chilean president Aníbal Pinto to take the territory. He ordered the army to seize Antofagasta in February 1979. Bolivians suggest this was successful because most of their armed forces were celebrating Carnaval at the time. After two weeks of Chilean occupation of Antofagasta, Bolivia declared war. Because of a “secret” treaty signed in 1873 (meaning it was not publicized, but most politicians in the region knew of it), Peru was obligated to come to Bolivia’s aid. At first, Peruvian president Manuel Prado tried to mediate, but the general population of Chile protested, calling for further action and persuaded the president to declare was on both Bolivia and Peru in April 1879.
Hoping to create a buffer zone so that Bolivia would not be able to inch into Chilean territory again, the Chilean Navy wanted to control maritime access further north. They blockaded Iquique then continued further North to Callao. By 1880, Chilean forces were trying to capture Arica, another strategic port north of Iquique. Eventually, the Chilean Navy made it all the way north to Lima in January 1881, where they demanded the cession of Tarapacá, Arica, and Tacna, but Peruvian president Nicolás Piérola did not cede. Peru was still occupied in July 1882 when they won the battle of La Concepción, causing public sentiment in Chile to change. Finally, Chilean government proposed to occupy Tacna and Arica for ten years and retain Tarapacá indefinitely. In 1884 Chile signed an “indefinite truce” with Bolivia, granting them only temporary occupation of the Bolivian coastline. Yet, despite current Bolivian president Evo Morales’s appeals to the United Nations, this area still remains under Chilean control, as do Arica, and Iquique.
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