The War of the Pacific

April 5, 1879 – October 20, 1883

Chile vs Bolivia & Peru

Guerra del Pacífico




 Causes of the War




Hilarión Daza Groselle  ( 1840 - 1894 )

 President of Bolivia from 1876 to 1879.


Aníbal Pinto ( 1825 - 1884 )

 President of Chile from 1876 to 1881.


 In 1866 Bolivia, while Chile and Bolivia were allied against Spain in the Chincha Islands War 1864 - 66, these two countries established a boundary at the 24th parallel and further stipulated the Chilean miners owning land in the 23 and 24 parallels should be able to mine and export without hindrance or tax from Bolivia . Chile was allowed to have a representative at the custom house in Antofagasta ( At the time part of Bolivia, now part of Chile ) . On  Feb 23, 1878, Bolivia levied a tax of ten centavos per quintal on all nitrates .  

The Bolivian government of President Hilarión Daza further decreed a backdated 1874 tax increase on Chilean companies after protests by the Chilean government of President Aníbal Pinto that the border treaty did not allow such increase. When the Antofagasta Nitrate & Railway Company refused to pay, the Bolivian government threatened to confiscate its property.


Chile responded by sending a warship to the Antofagasta area in December 1878 under the command of  Rear Admiral and commander-in-chief of the Chilean navy  Juan Rebolledo Williams ( 1825 - 1910 ) . Bolivia announced the seizure and auction of the company on February 14, 1879. Chile in turn threatened that such action would render the border treaty null and void. On the day of the auction, 2,000 Chilean soldiers arrived, disembarked and claimed the port city of Antofagasta without a fight.


Chilean army


Bolivia Declares War 




Now facing a territorial issue, Bolivia declared war a week later, and invoked its secret alliance with Peru, the Defensive Treaty of 1873. The Peruvian government was determined to honor its alliance with Bolivia to contain what they perceived as Chile's expansionist ambitions in the region, but was concerned that Allied forces were not in shape to face the Chilean Army; a peaceful resolution was preferred. Peru attempted to mediate by sending a top diplomat to negotiate with the Chilean government. Chile requested neutrality and Peru declined, citing the now public treaty with Bolivia. Chile responded by breaking diplomatic contact and formally declaring war on both Allies on April 5, 1879. Peru thus found itself drawn into the war in spite of not being a party to the original dispute.


Argentina was invited to join the Alliance since it had a territorial dispute with Chile regarding the region of Patagonia, and was also wary of Chilean position. Its entry in the war seemed possible and would have provided an advantage to the Allies. Argentina, however, decided to pursue a peaceful settlement to its own separate dispute and resulted in Chile renouncing her ambition over a million square miles of Patagonian territory claimed by Argentina.

Since most of the workers on that part of Bolivia were Chilean, they felt the tax was unfair and demanded the Chilean government to intervene. This eventually led to diplomatic crisis and war which revealed Peru's secret alliance with Bolivia.








   Battle of Topáter