The war of the Pacific was ended by two different international agreements which changed the limits among the three countries involved (Map 1.) In October, 1883, Peruvian and Chilean representatives signed the Treaty of Ancon, by which Chile incorporated the Tarapaca province. On the other hand, the final treaty of peace and boundaries with Bolivia was signed in 1904, two decades later. By this treaty Bolivia ratified the Chilean sovereignty over the Atacama desert territory” (Antofagasta province) accepting its condition as a landlocked country.
Nevertheless, territorial problems between Peru and Chile were far from over and the seed for a new controversy was right in the Ancon Treaty. The United States -in spite of its problematic relation with Chile- would become an active participant in the search for a solution of the territorial problem between the South American countries.
a. The Treaty of Ancon and the New Difficulties between US and Chile
According to Sater, by the final days of the War of the Pacific, Chile was “weary of the bloody war” and accepted to control Tacna and Arica provinces for only ten years if Peru ceded Tarapaca. Peruvians agreed and the treaty was signed. In its article 3º the agreement established that after a decade, “the two nations would conduct a plebiscite to determine the status of the disputed lands.” However, by 1894 the plebiscite had not been held yet.
Skuban states that, in their claims for that situation, Peruvians argued that the phrase expirado este plazo should be understood as at the expiration of that term, so “the plebiscite should have been held precisely on March 28, 1894, the exact day on which the Peruvian Congress ratified the treaty in 1884.” Nevertheless, Chileans insisted on interpreting that phrase as after the expiration of that term, which means “any time after the ten years had passed.” At the same time, Chile argued the plebiscite was pending because of the “lack of the requisite protocol, which could only be drawn up through negotiations between the two nations.” Successively, Peru had rejected to sign a protocol.
In 1891, in the midst of the Tacna-Arica controversy, Chile had experienced a brief but costly civil war, which seriously affected its domestic order and weakened its international position. While Peru attempted to impose its viewpoints about the Tacna-Arica plebiscite, Argentina pressed Chile to gain new territorial benefits along their vast and disputed frontier. During the Chilean civil conflict, the US Ambassador –Patrick Egan- supported President José Manuel Balmaceda, who faced the rebel forces of the Chilean congress and the navy. Egan prevented the supplement of armaments bought by Chilean rebels in California, causing a “deep resentment against US” in the party which, eventually, would win the conflict.
In the end of the civil war, George Brown, an American Admiral, was accused for being a spy. Some time later, two American sailors of the USS Baltimore were...