Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2010

From Rivalry to Mutual Trust: The Othering Process between Bolivia and Chile

Leslie Wehner

May 2010

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Bolivia and Chile live in a culture of rivalry as a consequence of the Nitrate War (1879‐1883). In each country’s case, the construction of the other as a threat, a rival and/or inferior has shaped the discursive articulation of the bilateral relationship. Whereas the culture of rivalry is more evident in Bolivia because of its aspiration to alter the border, Chile’s statusquo position, which stresses that there are no pending issues with Bolivia, as well as its construction of itself as superior, also represents rivalrous behavior. The perception of Chile as a threat and rival became especially evident in Bolivia during these two countries’ bilateral negotiations to export gas to and through Chile (gas crisis from 2001‐05). However, since Evo Morales and Michelle Bachelet took office in Bolivia (2006‐present) and in Chile (2006‐10), respectively, they have sought to change this culture of rivalry to one of friendship by constructing discursive articulations of self and other based on the principle of building mutual trust. Such a change in the form of othering is only possible to understand within the context of a crisis of meanings. The new approach of othering the counterpart as a friend has filled the void of meaning left by the crisis of discursive articulations of othering the counterpart as a rival, a threat and/or inferior.