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The background of the tension between Bolivia and the United States over lithium

The background of the tension between Bolivia and the United States over lithium

While the highland country built bridges with China for the exploitation of "white gold", a Trump delegation sought to access the lithium route through the Jujuy government.

The exploitation and industrialization of lithium meant the opening of important trade agreements for Bolivia in the last year but also stimulated increased tensions with the United States. During September, Ivanka Trump arrived in Jujuy with US government officials to announce the financing of a route that includes the so-called lithium route in its itinerary.

China and Germany became strategic partners of Bolivia from one of the world's most important reserves of that resource located in the Uyuni salt flat. While the country that Evo Morales presided over at that time chose to establish its commercial ties with the Asian giant and one of the main European powers, the United States did not want to be left out.

Prior to the presidential elections in Bolivia and given the growing political tension with the North American country, during September, Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the first US President Donald Trump, carried out a visit to the Jujuy town of Purmamarca with a delegation that was received by Governor Gerardo Morales.

The arrival of the North American "mission" to the city that borders Bolivia was attended by the Undersecretary of State, John J. Sullivan, the Deputy Minister of Defense, Lisa Hershman, and the Head of the USAID-Pentagon-dependent agency.

During her stay in Purmamarca, Ivanka Trump announced an investment of 400 million dollars for road works, the plan of which, according to businessmen linked to the governor of Jujuy, should include an itinerary along the so-called lithium route.

Through a report, journalist Jorge Elbaum announced that said investment would be channeled through the Foreign Private Investment Company (Opic), an autarkic government agency based in Washington.

Opic would be in charge of channeling the contributions to build routes whose priority beneficiaries would be transnational automotive companies, with financing at the expense of the taxes of each Argentine citizen.

The lithium triangle, the territory where Opic seeks to land with its investments, is nothing less than the area bordering Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, which concentrates 75% of the existing mineral throughout the world.


The largest reserve in the world

The world's economic interests are in Bolivia, a territory that has one of the largest reserves of lithium, a key component for the development of batteries for electric cars. According to a recent study, Uyuni has almost 21 million tons of this resource.

Although the plan to industrialize its own lithium has been delayed in recent times, the company Yacimientos de Litio Boliviano (YLB) had ties with different strategic partners. Already in 2018 the South American country had generated an agreement with the German firm ACI Systems that made possible the exploitation of the Uyuni salt flat.

Later, the Bolivian government created a new negotiation instance with a consortium of Chinese companies. The firms Xinjiang Tbea Group and Boacheng agreed with the then government of Evo Morales to obtain a 49% stake in the project that demanded some 2.3 million dollars.

At the time Xinjiang Tbea beat out six rivals who also sought to partner with Bolivia at Coipasa and Pastos Grandes, including ACI, Uranium One, a subsidiary of the Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, and the Irish company Clontarf Energy Plc.

At the time, Evo Morales stressed that “there is a guaranteed market in China for battery production”. In turn, the Chinese ambassador to Bolivia, Liang Yu, acknowledged that it will need 800,000 tons of metal per year by 2025 to support its burgeoning electric car industry.

The so-called "white gold" became an asset of economic growth for the highland country from its growing demand worldwide. In turn, its use meant decisions that marked a strategic position, either with whom the democratic government decided to build bridges, or with those who did not.

Grabois denounced "logistical support" from Gerardo Morales

The member of the Confederation of Workers of the Popular Economy (CTEP), Juan Grabois, slipped his suspicions about Gerardo Morales as an alleged accomplice to the situation in Bolivia. The union leader accused the Jujeño governor of providing "logistical support" for the coup against Evo Morales.

In radio statements, Grabois stated: “I have the suspicion, not evidence, that at least there has been logistical support from Gerardo Morales and that is strange to me that it was without the permission of Macri. It is quite evident and it will be necessary to investigate the level of this support, how much interference there was in the Bolivian issue”.

Later, the CTEP reference associated this position with the visit of the daughter of the US president to Jujuy in September. In that sense, he explained: “In September, our country, with the excuse of the fires, just as Ivanka Trump happened to arrive, sent brigades, soldiers and money to Santa Cruz de la Sierra”.

In fact, he detailed his version of events and said: “Just the day of Ivanka Trump's visit to Jujuy, Gerardo Morales was returning from Santa Cruz de la Sierra after having taken some boxes on Air Force planes, with the excuse of fighting forest fires. My friends in Bolivia, including government officials who are currently refugees, were already raising doubts about whether there were really good intentions”.

Finally the social leader insisted that “the role that Argentina played in this process will have to be investigated "and stated that currently" there are two different geopolitical economic projects that are not living democratically in Latin America”.

Video: Elon Musk Grilled By Ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales On Twitter (October 2020).