March 11, 2018 / 6:41 AM / 12 days ago

Bolivians unfurl massive flag in support for sea access claim

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia unfurled a nearly 200-km long (124 miles) bright blue flag on Saturday in a show of support for the landlocked country’s bid to regain sovereign access to the sea.

Students attend a ceremony during the maritime flag day in Oruro, Bolivia March 10, 2018. Sign reads "Bolivia born with sea" REUTERS/Daniel Rodrigo

Tens of thousands of Bolivians held the so-called “flag of maritime revindication,” which stretched like a long ribbon along a highway in the Andes between the towns Oruro and Apacheta, on the outskirts of La Paz.

The display of patriotism aims to cheer on Bolivia’s legal team ahead of oral arguments it will deliver at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the country’s claim to sovereign access to Chile’s Pacific coast.

Bolivia lost its access to the Pacific Ocean in a late 19th century war with Chile, but maintains a navy and wants a corridor to the sea to boost its exports of natural gas and minerals.

“We’ll show the International Court of Justice and all people on the planet that our cause is just, reasonable and sound,” President Evo Morales said after flying over the flag in a helicopter.

Morales has faced street protests in recent months over his plan to seek a fourth presidential term next year, after a court eliminated term limits last year.

Bolivia and Chile will start nine days of oral arguments before the ICJ on March 19.

Reporting By Daniel Ramos, Writing By Mitra Taj; Editing by David Gregorio

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