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Snipe incident


The Snipe incident was a military incident that took place between Chile and Argentina during 1958 as a result of an undefined border line in the Beagle Channel.

Both countries disagreed about the sovereign rights over the zone and Snipe, an uninhabitable islet between Picton Island and Navarino Island, claimed by both. Indeed, Chileans call the waterway around the islet Beagle Channel, but in Argentina they called it Moat channel on the grounds that the Beagle Channel went south around the Navarino Island. In accordance with the Beagle Channel Arbitration and the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 between Chile and Argentina, it should be called Beagle Channel.

The incident began on 12 January 1958 as the crew of the Chilean Navy ship Milcavi built a lighthouse on the islet Snipe to improve the navigation of the waterway, the "lamp" of the lighthouse was installed on 1 May.

In April, Isaac Francisco Rojas, at that time, Commander of Naval Operations of the Argentine Navy, ordered the destruction of the Chilean lighthouse and its replacement with an Argentine one.See book of Isaac Francisco Rojas, (compiler), "La Argentina en el Beagle y Atlantico sur, (1 Parte)", Cap IV, seccion 4, page 131 :"Yo, en persona, lleve a Ushuaia una baliza luminosa, la que en la segunda quincena de abril fue instalada en el islote Snipe en lugar de la senal chilena violadora del statu quo". There is a discrepance about the dates between the testimonies of Isaac Rojas and Hugo Alsina Calderon, who says that the lighthouse was inaugurated not until 1 May.

On 11 May, the Argentine lighthouse was dismantled and transported to Puerto Williams by the crew of the Chilean Patrol boat Lientur. Later, on 15 May, the same crew recovered the rest of the first Chilean lighthouse that had been thrown into the deep end of the waterway by the Argentine forces.

On 8 June, a new Chilean lighthouse was installed on the islet by the crew of the Lientur.

The next day the lighthouse was shelled by the Argentine destroyer ARA San Juan, and Argentine naval infantry occupied the islet to impose the Argentine claim.See "Historia General de las Relaciones Exteriores de la Republica Argentina" Algunas cuestiones con los paises vecinos: mantener la ocupacion hasta lograr el reconocimiento por parte del gobierno chileno del caracter litigioso del islote

Despite military deployment, a truce was agreed between the parties, that brought a return to previous status quo: no lighthouse and withdrawal of the Argentine military from the islet.


The conflict over the islet (and the zone) was postponed, but Argentina maintained that the zone was disputed, and without a satisfactory solution, there would be no advance or economic use of the zone.

To confront the better equipped Argentine forces, the Chilean government, in the last days of the second Carlos Ibanez del Campo administration, issued the "Ley Reservada del Cobre", bill No. 13.196, that provided for part of state owned Codelco's copper sales, for the purchase of weapons.

Twenty years later, in 1978, in order to avoid a repetition of the fait accompli, Chile placed defensive troops on Snipe and their other islands south of the Beagle Channel before the start of Operation Soberania, Argentina's planned invasion.

The fate of Snipe islet has since been settled by the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984, as an internationally recognized territory of the state of Chile. There is now a lighthouse on the islet.

See also

Beagle conflict


Hugo Alsina Calderon El incidente del islote Snipe in "Revista Marina" of Chile, in Spanish language

El Mercurio de Valparaiso, vom 17 August 2008, retrieved on 24 September 2008, in Spanish language

Isaac Francisco Rojas (Koordinator), "La Argentina en el Beagle y Atlantico sur, (1 Parte)", Editorial Diagraf, in Spanish language

Michael Radseck, Rohstoffe und Rustung. Hintergrunde und Wirkungen ressourcenfinanzierter Waffenkaufe in SudamerikaLateinamerika, Analysen 16, 1/2007, S. 203-241. Hamburg: ILAS, retrieved on 23 September 2008.

Historia General de las Relaciones Exteriores de la Republica Argentina Algunas cuestiones con los paises vecinos, retrieved on 23 September 2008, in Spanish language

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Snipe incident

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