All posts by Eoin Higgins

Bolivian Coup Comes Less Than a Week After Morales Stopped Multinational Firm’s Lithium Deal

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The Sunday military coup in Bolivia has put in place a government which appears likely to reverse a decision by just-resigned President Evo Morales to cancel an agreement with a German company for developing lithium deposits in the Latin American country for batteries like those in electric cars. 

"Bolivia's lithium belongs to the Bolivian people," tweeted Washington Monthly contributor David Atkins. "Not to multinational corporate cabals."

The coup, which on Sunday resulted in Morales resigning and going into hiding, was the result of days of protests from right-wing elements angry at the leftist Morales government. Sen. Jeanine Añez, of the center-right party Democratic Unity, is currently the interim president in the unstable post-coup government in advance of elections.

Investment analyst publisher Argus urged investors to keep an eye on the developing situation and noted that gas and oil production from foreign companies in Bolivia had remained steady.

The Morales move on Nov. 4 to cancel the December 2018 agreement with Germany's ACI Systems Alemania (ACISA) came after weeks of protests from residents of the Potosí area. The region has 50% to 70% of the world's lithium reserves in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats.

Among other clients, ACISA provides batteries to Tesla; Tesla's stock rose Monday after the weekend. 

As Bloomberg News noted in 2018, that has set the country up to be incredibly important in the next decade:
Demand for lithium is expected to more than double by 2025. The soft, light mineral is mined mainly in Australia, Chile, and Argentina. Bolivia has plenty—9 million tons that have never been mined commercially, the second-largest amount in the world—but until now there's been no practical way to mine and sell it.
Morales' cancellation of the ACISA deal opened the door to either a renegotiation of the agreement with terms delivering more of the profits to the area's population or the outright nationalization of the Bolivian lithium extraction industry.

As Telesur reported in June, the Morales government announced at the time it was "determined to industrialize Bolivia and has invested huge amounts to ensure that lithium is processed within the country to export it only in value-added form, such as in batteries."

It's unclear what the next steps are for the industry in a post-coup Bolivia, according to global intelligence analysis firm Stratfor:
In the longer term, continued political uncertainty will make it more difficult for Bolivia to increase its production of strategic metals like lithium or develop a value-added sector in the battery market. The poor investment climate comes at a time of expanding global opportunities in lithium-ion battery production to meet rising demand from electric vehicle manufacturing
ACISA told German broadcaster DW last week that the company was "confident that our lithium project will be resumed after a phase of political calmness and clarification."

On Sunday, Morales resigned.

Reprinted with permission from Common Dreams.

After US Senator Asks Public to ‘Imagine’ CIA Interfering in Foreign Elections, Historians Are Like… Uhhh

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Comments from Sen. Mark Warner responding to reports that Attorney General Bill Barr asked a number of world governments for help in refuting the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. election were met with ridicule Friday as observers mocked the suggestion that the CIA would never do such a thing.

Warner, a Virginia Democrat, made the remarks to NBC in an interview over the latest revelations in the still-unfolding whistleblower scandal that has triggered an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. News that Barr reached out to intelligence agencies in Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom for help in probing the Russian investigation has added to the fire.

"Can you imagine if the CIA was asked to provide damaging evidence on a political opponent in Australia?" Warner said. "There would be outrage in our political establishment."

There's just one problem with Warner's example of the CIA becoming involved in Australian politics—as one Twitter user observed, the CIA "literally did that" in 1975, covertly taking down the pro-independence government of then-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Whitlam had proposed shutting down Pine Gap, the U.S. satellite intelligence gathering center in central Australia, and exposing U.S. intelligence operations in the country, a move that sent the CIA into panic mode.

In other words, as Grayzone journalist Anya Parampil tweeted, Warner's hypothetical was "almost as outrageous as the CIA carrying out a coup against Australia’s democratically elected leftist leader who stood up to the agency, which it actually did."

As John Pilger recounted at The Guardian in 2014:
The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain's MI6 was operating against his government. "The Brits were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office," he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, "We knew MI6 was bugging cabinet meetings for the Americans." In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem" had been discussed “with urgency" by the CIA's director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: "[governor-general of Australia, Sir John Kerr] did what he was told to do."

[...]

On 11 November—the day Whitlam was to inform parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia—he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal "reserve powers," Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The "Whitlam problem" was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.
Australia, of course, is not the only country whose politics the U.S. has meddled in since the creation of the CIA in 1947. Among the other countries are China, East Germany, Iran, Costa Rica, Egypt, Indonesia, British Guiana, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Congo, France, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Bolivia, Indonesia, Ghana, Chile, Greece, Rica, Bolivia, Angola, Zaire, Portugal, Jamaica, the Seychelles, Chad, Grenada, Suriname, Fiji, Nicaragua, Panama, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia, Ecuador, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, Libya, and Syria.

The above is an incomplete list.

Reprinted with permission from Common Dreams.

‘Weak Journalism’: NYT Fails to Disclose Op-Ed Writer’s Close Family Ties to Venezuelan Opposition Leader

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A recent video opinion piece published by The New York Times intended to drum up support for US involvement in Venezuela failed to disclose the author's ties to the opposition government, leading to criticism from progressives of the paper's coverage. 

Joanna Hausmann, a comedian who posts highly viewed articles on Venezuela on YouTube, delivered a five minute, thirteen second opinion piece at the Times Monday in which she claims that the country's leader, President Nicolas Maduro, is a dictator and that the American left are his patsies. 

"This movement is dangerously glorifying a brutal dictator and promoting inaction," Hausmann says in the video as quirky music plays behind her. "That is the worst combination for ordinary Venezuelans."

Hausmann also claims that the country's economic problems are the fault of decades of socialist rule and that the path forward is a future without Maduro—it's implied, though never outright stated, that the answer is for opposition leader Juan Guaidó to take power. 

What the video and the Times did not reveal is that Hausmann's father, Harvard University economics professor Ricardo Hausmann, currently serves as Guaidó's envoy to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). It's a position that, if Guaidó became president, would wield immense political and economic power.

That omission was a focus of criticism from progressives. The elder Hausmann's place in the Venezuelan shadow government is a conflict that should have been made clear in his daughter's opinion video implicitly arguing for American intervention to remove Maduro. 

"[Very] cool of the NYT to not mention, you know, the fact that Joanna Hausmann's dad is an economic adviser for Guaidó," tweeted Think Progress reporter Rebekah Entralgo Fernández. 
Ricardo Hausmann's past in Venezuela should give Americans serious pause before taking him seriously, Anya Parampil argued in an early March article for Mint Press News. 

Ricardo Hausmann is much more than a prominent pundit. He is one of the West’s leading neoliberal economists, who played an unsavory role during the 1980s and ’90s in devising policies that enabled the looting of Venezuela’s economy by international capital and provoked devastating social turmoil.

That translates to his daughter's latest video, Parampil said on Twitter. 

"She's not an independent voice but rather the failchild of Guaidó advisor Ricardo Hausmann, a man who neoliberalized and destroyed [Venezuela's] economy once before and wants to do it all over again," Parampil said

Parampil also had some choice words for the Times:
In a response to critics, Times video producer Adam Ellick implied that because Joanna Hausmann has a sizable social media and YouTube following, disclosing her father's close ties to the Venezuelan opposition was unnecessary. 

"We were aware of her father's biography before publication," Ellick said, "but Ms. Hausmann is an independent adult woman who has built a popular following on her own, by producing a portfolio of argued videos about Venezuela via her own YouTube channel."

Observers on social media were quick to cite the Times' codes of conduct to Ellick in response. 
As of the this writing, Hausmann's video remains up at the Times with no mention of her family connection to the opposition movement she's promoting.

Reprinted with permission from Common Dreams.