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Chilean senator demands the return of ‘looted books’ to Peru

Chilean senator Alejandro Navarro said on Monday that books and other valuable artifacts and documents “looted” from Peru during the Chilean occupation of Lima in the War of the Pacific, must be given back to their “legitimate owners” in order to strengthen to countries relations and to heal the “wounds of the past”.

Navarro said these items “are not a trophy military but a product of looting”, and emphasized that now is the time to create the conditions for their return to Peru.

He detailed that the items, which date back to the 19th century, include books and documents which are currently stored at Chile’s National Library and the National Archives. Ancient Peruvian money coins are preserved at Chile’s Casa de la Moneda.
According to experts, some of the items have an incalculable value.

Nevertheless, Navarro also stated there’s a possibility that not all treasures taken from Peru can be located and he hopes that within the next weeks and months, both governments will find a consensus on their return.

“I would hope that diplomacy prevails, that our foreign ministries make act swiftly and determine transport and delivery. This would certainly help the integration of our countries, to heal the wounds and seal a difficult part of our mutual history. It will be very good for the souls and conscience of Chileans and Peruvians alike”, the senator of the Socialist Party told CPN radio.

At least 10,000 Peruvian books were taken by the Chilean Army marched towards the Peruvian capital in early 1881. Regular Peruvian army and poorly armed citizens set up to defend Lima. However, Peruvian forces were defeated in the battles of San Juan and Miraflores, and the city of Lima fell in January 1881 to the forces of General Baquedano. The southern suburbs of Lima, including the upscale beach area of Chorrillos, were sacked and burned to the ground.

The outlying haciendas were burned down by Chinese coolies who had been brought in from South China since the early 1850’s for cheap labor at the haciendas. Some Chilean historians have since claimed that the Chilean troops entered Lima to prevent looting and destruction after the collapse of authority there; historical records show that those same Chilean forces were responsible for the looting and destruction.

Navarro also addressed the maritime border controversy between both countries, maintaining that Chile’s foreign ministry cannot continue eluding this subject. In order to find a solution for this issue, he said he is in favor of putting it on the bilateral agenda.

“If this issue creates tensions between both neighbors, then we have to face it. The way and form of solving it lies in the hands of the foreign ministries to eventually come to a political decision. But just ignoring that the problem exists it is not acceptable in my opinion”, he remarked.

He considered that this topic, as well as Bolivia’s demand of a sovereign exit to the Pacific, has fallen on deaf ears. “I understand that Chile’s Foreign Ministry has said repeatedly this is a non-issue and that a controversy doesn’t exist. But the controversy was raised by Peru, the subject must be handled and we should look for a common resolution”, he added.

Article by Wolfy Becker

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