Elon Musk on Bolivia: ‘We will coup whoever we want!’

Bolivia’s ‘lithium coup’ is yet another example of a regime-change operation carried out at the behest of imperialist corporations.

Proletarian writers

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Lithium mining at Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni. The salt flat contains more known lithium carbonate reserves than any other location on earth.

Proletarian writers

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In July, billionaire Elon Musk, a grown man with all the maturity of a rebellious teenager, took to his favourite attention-seeking platform, Twitter, to make known his opinion, not that anybody asked for it, on a proposed economic stimulus package to help soften the blow of the latest crisis of overproduction that the capitalist world is presently reeling from.

“Another government stimulus package is not in the best interests of the people imo,” the sagacious entrepreneur opined. To which another user fired back: “You know what wasn’t in the interests of the people? The US government organising a coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia so you could obtain the lithium there.”

Outraged and well out of his depth, Musk threw his toys out of the pram, exclaiming: “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.”

This candid and frankly stupid remark neatly encapsulates the mentality of the capitalist class as a whole, and of the imperialist Americans in particular, who consider the whole continent to be their ‘back yard’.

It is their firm belief that the world, with all of its resources, is not a beautiful shared home to all of humanity and the animal kingdom, to be respected and nurtured in order to sustain life, but their own exclusive property to do with as they please. The inhabitants thereof are not human beings, but so much potential labour-power to be exploited or cannon fodder to be used to further enrich the capitalist class and fulfil its hegemonic desires.

Bolivia’s lithium reserves

Bolivia is blessed with a vast wealth of natural resources. In particular, it has been found to possess some 43 percent of the world’s known supply of lithium, buried beneath the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in the country’s southern highlands.

Underneath the flats, large aquifers rich in lithium brine are to be found. Extracting lithium in this context, as opposed to mining from hard rock, carries a number of benefits: the cost is significantly lower, the production timeframe is shorter, and returns are much higher – an extremely attractive prospect to profit-mad corporations. (A cost comparison: lithium brine vs hard rock exploration by Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist, 2 June 2015)

However, it was not Morales’s goal to allow foreign companies to exploit Bolivia’s lithium reserves, nor was it his intention to act as a supplier of raw materials for high-end manufacturing abroad.

Instead, under his leadership, the state-owned Bolivian Oil Fields (YPFB) proudly worked towards building the capacity to mine and process lithium within the country, bringing in large sums of money to be used for the benefit of the whole Bolivian people.

Such was the success of the plan, part of a larger ‘Bicentennial Agenda’, that, in June 2019, it was estimated that the country had the reserves and capacity to produce some 400,00 lithium batteries each year. (Bolivia: Morales to industrialise lithium for battery exports, Telesur, 19 June 2019)

Then, in October 2019, the first domestically manufactured electric car, produced by state-owned YLB (Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos, or Bolivian Lithium Deposits), was showcased at the opening of a new lithium technology centre in Potosi, a city near Salar de Uyuni.

The centre, consisting of 18 classrooms, laboratories and conference rooms, aimed to teach students about the production and uses of lithium, and to provide the future workforce for the industry. (Bolivia to introduce first domestically-made electric vehicle, Telesur, 2 October 2019)

A similar strategy was pursued in Bolivia’s natural gas industry, which before the Morales government’s initiatives was exporting unrefined gas and importing its refined counterpart. During Morales’s presidency, the YPFB began refining gas domestically and exporting value-added processed gas canisters to neighbouring Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Paraguay – once again using the proceeds to better the lives of poor Bolivians.

Of course, this did not sit well with the imperialist US, which cannot stand the sight of human progress, and could not stomach another socialist-oriented country in its ‘back yard’.

The November 2019 ‘lithium coup’ in Bolivia

“Our sin, our crime, is to be an indigenous person and to have begun change with the participation of the Bolivian people,” noted Morales during his first press conference in Argentina after the violent coup that overthrew him in November 2019 – a coup that had been led by the Bolivian elite with the murderous CIA acting behind the scenes.

“We nationalised energy and water, which were previously privatised,” continued President Morales. “We said that another world is possible without the IMF.”

“We did three important things. In the political realm, we refounded Bolivia. We left a colonial state behind and created a plurinational state. In the economic realm, we promoted nationalisations. And most importantly, in the social realm, we achieved wealth redistribution.”

The government of Evo Morales, the Movement Toward Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, or MAS), greatly increased the quality of life for the working masses of Bolivia, reducing extreme poverty from 38.2 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2018.

This shocking redistribution of wealth and resources was just too much for the US to bear.

Accordingly, the US-led Organisation of American States (OAS) declared the results of the October 2019 presidential election, which MAS won by a wide margin, to be fraudulent, purely because they did not align with its own desired outcome.

“We won in the first round,” said Morales. “According to the OAS, however, winning with a wide margin is electoral fraud … the OAS said there was fraud because in 225 tables the MAS obtained between 70 and 90 percent of the votes. In rural areas, we even obtained more … The real fraud is the OAS report.” (‘Fascists, racists plotted the lithium coup in Bolivia’ Morales, Telesur, 17 December 2019)

Using this pretext as a springboard, the opposition, backed by the police and armed forces, and, most importantly, by the US, ousted Morales with a campaign of violence and intimidation. On 12 November 2019, opposition senator Jeanine Añez Chávez appointed herself ‘interim president’.

The demonstrations of Bolivian workers and peasants that followed the coup were drowned in blood. The armed forces were granted immunity from prosecution as they used live rounds against demonstrators, killing 30 and wounding 800 more in the clashes that immediately followed.

Evo Morales: a popular, well-respected leader

Evo Morales held the position of president from 22 January 2006 until 10 November 2019. He was, and still is, immensely popular with the Bolivian working masses. His illegitimate ‘successors’ enjoy no such popularity, and rule over the people with naked terror.

The story of Bolivia since the coup has been one of misery and suffering, combined with unrelenting struggle on the part of the popular masses of Bolivia.

Public companies are being dismantled and privatised, people are without food, embassies in fraternal, anti-imperialist countries such as Iran and Nicaragua have been closed, and members of MAS face political prosecution, all while ties between the coup regime and its puppetmasters in Washington are continually reinforced.

Such is the dependence and subservience of the US-backed regime on foreign capital, that newly appointed lickspittle foreign minister Karen Longaric penned a grovelling letter to Mr Musk asking his company to supply ventilators to help battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Musk ignored the request, perhaps advised to do so by his PR team, and the illegal government instead purchased 170 ventilators at the exorbitant cost of $27,683 each from a Spanish supplier, relying on a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (with headquarters in Washington DC) to do so, even though they could have been supplied by Bolivian companies at a fraction of the price.

This flagrant corruption blew up in the face of the regime, and health minister Marcelo Navajas was arrested in a panicked act of damage limitation. (Bolivia investigates health officials over ventilator deal after public outcry by Daniel Ramos, Reuters, 20 May 2020)

So what became of the elections that were apparently so near and dear to the OAS in November last year? Unsurprisingly, they have already been postponed twice (which did not bother the OAS one bit) and are now scheduled for 18 October. Whether or not they will go ahead this time no-one can be sure.

What we can be sure of, is that the results will once again be considered fraudulent by the ‘international community’ should the MAS win, as it is expected to do.

We stand with our brothers and sisters in Bolivia in their struggle to restore peace and independence to their country, and to restore their chosen leader to the position of president.

Both in Bolivia and Britain, workers are fighting a common, mortal enemy, the enemy of all mankind: imperialism, the most hideous, reactionary stage of capitalism and human exploitation in its final decaying, moribund form.

Every blow the Bolivian working masses land against the US and its lackeys, every defeat or setback they inflict, weakens our joint adversary, and is to be celebrated as a victory for us all.