The US-supported right-wing coup against Bolivian President Evo Morales on November 10th was a serious strike against that nation’s autonomy and its people (especially its indigenous, of whom Morales was one). Such meddling has defined US foreign policy in Latin America for nearly two centuries, since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.
“Same song, different verse,” one could say, and that’s true, but each verse has different lyrics and this one features a new element (no pun intended): Lithium.
While Lithium is used as an ingredient in a wide variety of products such as pharmaceuticals, industrial lubricants, desiccants, lenses and even rocket propellants, the fastest growing application is for batteries for electric cars. According to Bloomberg, demand for lithium could “double by 2025.”
Bolivia’s lithium reserves are believed to be the largest in the world. A conservative estimate puts their share at nearly a quarter of the world’s total, though the government has claimed it to be as high as 70% [Lithium Today]. Regardless of the exact amount, Bolivia’s supply is globally recognized to be significant, enough to have attracted the attention of China and Germany, among other countries.
Obviously, US interests in Bolivia are not about democracy, freedom or the rule of law, as Trump disingenuously stated. They’re not solely about lithium either; the socialist politics of Morales are anathema to capitalist elites the world over. Similarly, Iraq was not solely about oil. But with lithium, we’re talking about a substance that could become “one of the most important commodities on earth” so yes, it has some bearing. [See: Bolivian Coup Comes Less Than a Week After Morales Stopped Multinational Firm’s Lithium Deal and Bolivia coup against Morales opens opportunity for multinational mining companies.]
The big dream of “green energy” is that society will just be able to switch from one source to another without changing anything fundamentally. How perversely appropriate, then, that US foreign policy would not have to change fundamentally either. To wars for oil, we’ll just add coups for green energy. That’s not an improvement.