Bolivia, lithium, and Elon Musk

Oligarchs tend to be jerks in general and Elon Musk is clearly one of the biggest jerks. One of his big jerk moves was in blackmailing Alameda county where the city of Fremont is the city of Oakland that if they did not lift their covid-19 restrictions, he would move his Tesla manufacturing plant out of the city. So it should be no surprise that he is also an example of the arrogance of US imperialists.

Recall that the US was an enthusiastic supporter of the coup last year in Bolivia that overturned the election results that had socialist Evo Morales winning easily. Morales has speculated that one reason that the US wanted him out is that, in addition to his policies that benefited the long-neglected poor and indigenous people of his country (the kinds of policies that the US absolutely detests), he had also made a deal with China for the export of the element lithium. It appears that Bolivia has great reserves of this element which is an important component of batteries.

Enter Musk and his electric car business that is heavily dependent on battery technology and thus on lithium. He had gloated over the coup, displaying the kind of arrogance that comes so easily to oligarchs.

Musk’s business empire is reliant on cheap lithium, a fact which some saw connected to a tweet from the SpaceX CEO, who gloated after Morales’ ouster last year: “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.” Though Musk himself states that his companies get their lithium from Australia, global lithium prices and access are intimately connected to nationalization (or privatization) policies in countries with vast reserves, like Bolivia. 

In any case, Musk’s words were interpreted as an object demonstration of American neo-imperialism — that is, a foreign policy implemented by the United States which holds that the country has the right to meddle in other nations’ political affairs to serve its own self-proclaimed interests. America has done this on a number of occasions throughout its history, from Guatemala and Nicaragua to Chile and Iran. The billionaire class, which Musk is a part of, benefits from this kind of oft-violent intervention by American military and intelligence apparatuses that encourage privatization and resource control of foreign assets for the benefit of US companies and their CEOs.

Now that Morales’ party Movement Toward Socialism has swept back into power, Musk has deservedly become the target of ridicule.

“Elon Musk in July on removal of former Bolivian President Evo Morales. Bolivia holds world’s largest lithium deposits – critical for powering electric cars,” journalist Daniel Medina tweeted. “Today: No comment from Musk as Morales’ Movimiento al Socialismo party won Sunday’s presidential election in landslide.”

Political cartoonist Carlos Latuff expressed a similar thought, tweeting that the “people of Bolivia said NO to the military coup, the CIA and the coup-monger asshole @elonmusk! Congratulations @LuchoXBolivia and @evoespueblo.”

Journalist Ken Klippenstein was more succinct, tweeting that he was “calling in a wellness check on elon musk.”

Comedian Christine Sydelko tweeted that people should not forget Musk’s comment, writing that it is “just your friendly reminder that Elon Musk is a giant steaming pile of dog s**t.”

Musk, like Trump, is a prolific self-prolific self-promoter on Twitter but he has been silent on the recent Bolivian events.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Tired South American @2: The most glaring case of Stockholm syndrome in recent history has been the large proportion of Americans who have been convinced that socialism is evil. Universal health care is the slippery slope to Stalinism!

  2. René says

    (Completely ectopic:

    an object demonstration

    Really? Do North-Americans pronounce abject and object the same? How many litterate eyes must have read the phrase, and nobody corrects it?)

  3. consciousness razor says

    René, it’s more common to use the term “object lesson”:

    An object lesson is a teaching method that consists of using a physical object or visual aid as a discussion piece for a lesson. Object lesson teaching assumes that material things have the potential to convey information.

    In this context, it’s basically just a wordier version of “a demonstration.”

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    René @4: Musk’s words were the opposite of abject. And ‘literate’ only has two t’s 😉

  5. René says

    Razor and Rob: Thanks, I may embark on learning sth. new.

    Tomorrow. (No sarcasm. Just tired, and suffering from the swap from Daylight Saving Time to normal t.)

  6. KG says

    BTW, Tired South American, your comment simply makes no sense. Stockholm Syndrome refers to to something that supposedly happens while a victim is in the power of their kidnapper. The Bolivian people were not in the power of the MAS, which was out of government following a right-wing coup backed by foreign interests.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    Does it never occur to any of these smug lefties that Musk is silent at this point because he’s right and all he has to do is wait?

  8. Mano Singham says

    Sunday Afternoon @#1,

    Thanks for the correction. I have changed it to be more accurate in referring to Alameda county where both Oakland and Fremont are.

  9. stumble says

    This is complete garbage. Boliva does not have any commercially valuable lithium, it isn’t even a top 20 producer, and likely never will be. They have have deposits true, but none of them are high enough grade to be worth exploiting.

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