By my lights, the authors have buried the lede.
They first report that Musk wants to build an electric car factory in Brazil, and was supposed to have met with Jair Bolsonaro (who either has or hasn’t tested positive for corona virus depending on which hour of the #FakeNews cycle). As Musk had ended up being too busy, he’ll go to Brazil later this year. Apparently ‘all eyes are on the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina where both BMW and GM already have factories. They provide a list of names that Musk has been in contact with already who are eager for Musk to build a Gigfactory there as well.
They also write that while Brazil does indeed have some lithium, it won’t be a sufficient supply for Musk’s electric cars, and Tesla would have to procure and import mre from…elsewhere. Over to the authors:
“The Lithium Triangle
Over 50 percent of the world’s known lithium deposits are in the “Lithium Triangle”—the lithium concentrated brine sources in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Bolivia’s high mountain deserts—the Salar de Uyuni—have by far the largest known reserves of lithium.
In a bizarre tweet, the Bolivian entrepreneur Samuel Doria Medina wrote that since Elon Musk and Jair Bolsonaro will discuss the Tesla plant in Brazil, they should add to this initiative the following: “build a Gigafactory in the Salar de Uyuni to supply lithium batteries.”
[Salar de Uyuni (or Salar de Tunupa) is the world’s largest salt flat, at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi). It is in the Daniel Campos Province in Potosí in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes at an elevation of 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) above sea level. It contains 50% to 70% of the world’s known lithium reserves according to a 2009 Foreign Policy article by Joshua Keating.”]
“Doria Medina is not just an entrepreneur. He is the vice-presidential candidate alongside the “interim president” Jeanine Áñez for the May 3, 2020, Bolivian presidential elections. Áñez came to power only because of the coup d’état against Evo Morales in November 2019. Doria Medina’s welcome mat to Tesla should, therefore, be seen as having the full authority of the coup government behind it.
Morales’ government had been very cautious with these lithium reserves. It had made clear that these precious resources were not to be turned over to transnational corporations in deals favorable to the firms; what gains come from lithium, Morales had pointed out, must be properly shared with the Bolivian people. The point that Morales’ government made is that any deal must be done with Comibol—Bolivia’s national mining company—and Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos—Bolivia’s national lithium company. The monetary gains from the mining would come into the Bolivian exchequer and then fund the social programs so necessary for the country. This sensible socialist policy was too much for three major transnational firms—Eramet (France), FMC (United States), and Posco (South Korea)—all three of whom turned tail and went to Argentina.
The Lithium Coup
It was Morales’ socialist policy toward Bolivia’s resources that doomed his government. The oligarchy, which was angry with Morales’ government and its socialism, used every mechanism to undermine the election of 2019. Forest fires in the northern and eastern regions of Bolivia provided the oligarchy’s media with the weaponry to suggest that Morales had abandoned his commitment to the environment and to Pachamama (Mother Earth), and that he was now working to benefit the cattle ranchers; it is important to point that this is not only ridiculous, but that as soon as the coup government of Áñez came into office, it passed legislation that allowed the ranchers to extend their lands into forested areas.
Morales’ opponent—Carlos Mesa—and other senior leaders of the oligarchy’s political parties openly said long before the election that Morales could only win by fraud. A self-proclaimed Council for the Defense of Democracy said that Morales was an illegitimate candidate because he had lost the 2016 constitutional referendum. The media—backed by these corporate and neofascist interests—banged the drum of fraud, while Carlos Mesa—on the night of the election—said that there was “monumental fraud” in the election. These provocations from Mesa, the neofascists, and the corporate elites resulted in street violence; in the midst of this, the police—sections of whom were angry with Morales for cracking down on police corruption—mutinied. The 36 Bolivians who died in the immediate post-election aftermath are victims of Mesa’s incendiary language. The Organization of American States (OAS), egged on by the U.S. government, came up with a “preliminary report” of fraud in the election; the hard conclusions in the report were not substantiated by the data in it. The OAS report played an important role in legitimizing the coup against Morales.
It is important to point out that there was no controversy about Morales’ election in 2014; in that election, Morales won 61 percent of the votes to defeat the entrepreneur Samuel Doria Medina, who won 24 percent (Doria Medina is the same person who is now running for vice president and welcomes Tesla to Bolivia’s lithium). Morales’ term, from the 2014 election, had not yet expired in November 2019; the removal of Morales then violated the mandate of 2014, a point that has received almost no discussion either inside Bolivia or abroad.
John Curiel and Jack Williams of the Election Data and Science Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) went over the Bolivian election data and found no fraud: “There is not any statistical evidence of fraud that we can find,” they wrote conclusively in the Washington Post. Curiel and Williams contacted the OAS, but they note, “We and other scholars within the field reached out to the OAS for comment; the OAS did not respond.” By their assessment, Morales won the election in November 2019 and should have been inaugurated this year to a new term.
Terrible pressure by the coup government against the party of Morales (the Movement for Socialism, or MAS)—as well as the presence of USAID monitors and a U.S.-backed head of the election commission, Salvador Romero—suggests that this election on May 3 is not going to be at all fair; it will likely favor the coup government, including the entrepreneur who wants to turn over Bolivia’s lithium to Elon Musk’s Tesla and Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil.
A World of Lithium
In 2019, the benchmark Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s “Energy Storage Outlook 2019” report anticipated that by 2030, the price of the lithium-ion battery would drop dramatically, and that—as a consequence—renewable energy (solar and wind) plus storage of energy in batteries will expand exponentially. By 2040, there is an expectation that wind and solar will produce 40 percent of world energy consumption, rather than the 7 percent it now produces. For this, demand for energy storage will increase. “The total demand for batteries from the stationary storage and electric transport sectors is forecast to be 4,584GWh (Gigawatt hours) by 2040,” write the Bloomberg analysts, “providing a major opportunity for battery makers and miners of component metals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel.” The current use is merely 9GW/17GWh.
The key point to emphasize here is that this will provide “a major opportunity” for “miners of component metals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel.” When Bloomberg’s analysts use a word like “miners,” they do not mean the Bolivian miners or the Congolese miners, but the transnational firms, such as Tesla and its chief, Elon Musk. As far as Bloomberg and Áñez are concerned, South America is no longer to follow the resource nationalist project of Evo Morales; this is Elon Musk’s South America, a place for the neo-conquistadors to make money and leave behind them social carnage.”
And right on cue, with the elections two months away:
BREAKING: ‘Bolivia declares state of emergency due to coronavirus, closes schools, suspends flights to and from Europe, and bans events with more than 1,000 people’
From telesurenglish.com March 13:
“Bolivia’s former President Evo expressed concern about the mismanagement that the self-proclaimed President Jeanine Añez is carrying out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Through his twitter account, Morales addresses the Bolivian people asking them to remain calm, be supportive and not stigmatize any citizen.
He said that the Añez administration spent more than US $50 million in purchases of weapons and chemical agents for the police.
“Those resources must be destined to acquire medical supplies and medicines with the purpose to avoid the Covid-19 spread in our country.”
“The coup-born regime must take coordination measures at all levels. Our priority must be to protect the most vulnerable: the elderly or those with basic illnesses, children under 5 years old and pregnant women.”
Three victims have been confirmed in Bolivian territory due to Covid-19, 2 in Santa Cruz and 1 in the community of Oruro.
To prevent the expansion of Covid-19, the coup-born government prohibited the arrival of flights from Europe and the performance of public events with more than a thousand participants. So far, however, the decision to hold the elections on May 3 remains.
Morales also said, “We regret that Cuban doctors have been expelled from the country. They would have been able to provide a valuable service at this time.”
Evo has been barred from even running for a seat in the Bolivian Senate.
“Here are some characteristic features of today’s Bolivia based on a survey carried out by the Center for Geopolitics in Latin America (CELAG) sample size of 2,000 in-person interviews throughout the country in both rural and urban locations.
Once again we see something that no coup d’état can achieve; make the country’s main political force disappear in one stroke. The candidate for MAS [Movement toward Socialism], Luis Arce, is preferred to of 33.1%, of the voters while Jeanine Añez is far behind with 20.5%. They are followed by Carlos Mesa (17.4%) and Fernando Camacho (7.4%). It is still too early to know if this difference will allow Arce to win in the first round that requires over 40% with a difference of 10 over the second place candidate. It is not for sure put this is the electoral support that Arce now enjoys.
Arce still has room to gain more votes. His electoral ceiling is close to 40%. But we must bear in mind that the level of lack of information is very high (almost 25%), and therefore he still has a lot of room for improvement in terms of voting intentions. Arce has the advantage of having a very positive image as Minister of Economy (54.8%), and also, in comparative terms, the Bolivian population sees him as having a greater capacity to govern and a greater commitment than his rivals.
In turn, Añez is considered the strongest competitor to Arce. The current de facto president does not have as much voting intention (20.5%) as potential voters (40%). Her electoral ceiling is twice as high as her voting intention. And the only reason is simple; she becomes the probable channel of the useful vote against Evo. This was the political phenomenon that marked the previous election and caused the spirit of the second round to slip through the first. And this time the big question is whether the Mesa-friendly voters will be willing to support Añez . However, Añez also has her weaknesses; almost two thirds (64.6%) believe that she should not run for president and, more than half (54.4%) believe that she will commit fraud in the next election.
In Bolivia, there is a great negative feeling of anguish and anger about several problems. For example violence against women (80.4%), potential devaluation of its currency (68.5%), fear of losing jobs (63.3%). Furthermore, 82.6% believe that racism still exists and that this should be overcome, 85.5% believe that social bonds are necessary and only 31.1% think that privatizations improve the functioning of the economy.”
Bolivian journalist Ollie Vargas brings this poll from March 13. “New poll: Bolivia’s MAS is just 4% away from a first round election victory. Pro-coup candidates not even close.”, and earlier: “The ban on large rallies will hurt the MAS, they’re the only party that can attract large crowds. Nevertheless, this poll shows that the MAS are set to win, only fraud by the regime can stop them.”
(cross-posted at caucus99percent.com)