Wild Lithium Hunt: How Tesla Toppled Morales

It is common for the ordinary public to believe that the different revolutions and coups happen as if by themselves. Cinema adds to this notion the idea of the role of the individual in history. It’s as if they are saying that one day there was such a man who changed the world exclusively by the scale of his personality and by his strong-willed qualities. The picture is completed by the press, which gives the impression that there are places where local people simply do not know how to live otherwise, because revolutions in their country are the most common thing.

At first glance, the coup in Bolivia seems to be the most accurate confirmation of that. President Evo Morales, who had ruled the country for 14 years and once again won national elections (47% of the vote), was defeated by Luis Fernando Camacho as a result of a coup “following the Ukrainian scheme”.

Morales comes from the local Aymara tribe and is the first indigenous representative in the top leadership post. He relied on national minorities, the poor, and the middle class and advocated popular socialist ideas in the region.

While Camacho is not only a billionaire, he is actually a kind of strong and independent baron in the Santa Cruz region, having even something of an army of his own. He holds extreme right-wing beliefs, up to outright fascism.

It would seem that the case in Latin America is ordinary. The economy there is traditionally export-oriented. The lion’s share of its income settles in the hands of a narrow circle of elites formed predominantly of former colonisers. Everyone else, especially the Indian population, gets little from exports. And they are not involved in production processes. Hence the classical distribution of ideological preferences.

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All of this is true, except for one point that fundamentally changes everything. Its name is lithium, two thirds of the world’s reserves (58%) of which are concentrated in a triangle between Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia. Lithium is a material specific. It seems to be very necessary for modern industry, but the total demand for it did not exceed 20,000-25,000 tons per year.

But towards the end of the first decade of this century, Elon Musk came and said that in two decades the whole world will only drive electric vehicles. As proof of this, the Tesla project was launched. The world was amazed and believed it. Thus began an electric race, which resulted in a sharp increase in demand for batteries, the design of which is based on the same lithium.

As a result, its production doubled in ten years (to 38,000 tons), and the price per ton jumped from €1670 in 1998 to €12,900 in 2018. With logistics costs to China, it costs at all closer to 20,000.

And here came “some Indian” with his socialism. And he’s also smart, he arranged in Bolivia the nationalisation of deposits, which deprived the billionaire of a large part of his income. And not only that, he had the audacity in July of this year to visit Moscow, where he held successful negotiations on cooperation and investment in the development of the mining industry of the country.

This was the last straw. The similarity of the implemented scheme of intercepting power with the Kiev Maidan more than strongly indicates the leadership and guiding role of the United States. The rise of left-wing sentiment in the backyard of “America for Americans” Washington, of course, was annoying, but generally satisfied. Since Bolivians would in any case be forced to sell their lithium, for lack of especially other options. But allowing Russian capital to be consolidated there meant a direct threat to the current project of forming a separate autarchy, closed to Washington, from the Americas.

And Morales was overthrown almost like in Ukraine. He was betrayed not only by the army command and the leadership of the security forces, but also by representatives of the administration and the leadership of the largest trade union in the country. As a result, the government fell, and Morales himself had to seek political asylum in Mexico.

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However, judging by the increasing scale of civil unrest, there is little difference between Pinochet and Camacho. This is clearly heading towards a full-scale civil war. But in the main, admittedly, the United States has succeeded. Any Russian projects in Bolivia, especially with strategically important lithium, can now be forgotten. America is still for Americans. Although not for everyone, these are technical details.

Aleksandr Zapolskis

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