For the first time after Luis Arce’s election victory and the return of the leftist “Movement for Socialism” (MAS) to power, public protests, street riots and radical right – wing fighting erupted in various parts of the country – especially in the ultraconservative bastion and the richest Bolivian province of Santa Cruz. The so-called" Citizens Committee for Santa Cruz", for example, called for civil resistance. However, the government of Luis Arce strongly denied that the arrests were motivated by political motives and referred to normal court proceedings, which aimed, among other things, to investigate internationally recognized serious human rights violations.
Changing the political map
The new ultraconservative wave against the Luis Arce government began in December 2020 in response to the property tax law passed by the MAS-majority Chamber of Deputies, which was assessed private property of over $ 4.3 million and forwarded to the Senate for confirmation.
At the same time as the recent presidential elections in Ecuador and Peru, regional elections were also held in Bolivia to replace the provincial administrations, which, as a result of the conservative offensive, show a change in the political map. It highlights a new shift in power between the MAS and the opposition, which, according to progressive observers, oblige the ruling party to a rigorous internal evaluation and self-criticism, as well as to an analysis of the hard “anti-MAS"course and the emergence of a new, more moderate opposition. After the recent regional elections, six departments are governed by opposition governors, while Oruro, Potosí and Cochabamba alone continue to be governed by the ruling MAS party.
Because of Añez and Almagro: the political pressure of the USA on the Bolivian judiciary
“We are deeply concerned about growing signs of anti-democratic behavior and politicization of the legal system in Bolivia. The Bolivian government should release detained former officials until there is an independent and transparent investigation of human rights and concerns about due process, " US Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed with conspicuous dishonesty in the conservative chorus on March 27.
We are deeply concerned by growing signs of anti-democratic behavior and politicization of the legal system in Bolivia. The Bolivian government should release detained former officials, pending an independent and transparent inquiry into human rights and due process concerns.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 27, 2021
“Politicization of the legal system”? Blinken is apparently convinced that the häme should be continued as the foreign policy motto of the State Department. A few weeks ago, he was proud to announce the continuation of the legal war, called Lawfare, which was being fueled worldwide by the United States, when he influenced the runoff election in Ecuador with a cynical - looking “bonus” – the “State Departments International Anticorruption Champions Award” - for the Ecuadorian prosecutor Diana Salazar.
The United States is rebuilding our partnerships, founded on shared principles like the rule of law. In that spirit, I’m proud to launch the @StateDept’s International Anticorruption Champions Award and recognize 12 individuals committed to transparency and accountability.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 23, 2021
Chilean José Miguel Vivanco, Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) for America, also intervened in the arrests via Twitter and questioned the accusation of terrorism made against Añez. However, unlike Blinken, Vivanco also pointed out that during the Áñez government, “serious human rights violations, including two massacres,” had occurred and demanded that they be investigated “with full respect for due process.” HRW had already filed a protest against the political persecution of the MAS and Morales supporters in September 2020.
Bolivia: Los órdenes de captura contra Añez y sus ministros no contienen ninguna evidencia de que hayan cometido el delito de “terrorismo”.— José Miguel Vivanco (@JMVivancoHRW) March 12, 2021
Por ello, generan fundadas dudas de que se trata de un proceso basado en móviles políticos. pic.twitter.com/7qyYnjMsoB
When Bolivian Minister of Justice Iván Lima announced that he was bringing the Secretary General of the Washington-based OAS, Luis Almagro, to trial for “violating” OAS agreements with the Andean nation, the realization that the Bolivian judicial investigation was not limited to domestic actors, but extended to international protagonists of the coup caused irritation in the United States. With” violations " Lima alluded to the OAS election report of October 2019, which clearly cheered the political crisis in Bolivia and culminated in the coup against President Evo Morales. But as a pinnacle of cynicism, the OAS and Almagro recently set themselves the task of commissioning an international commission to “expose” the corruption of the Morales government – in fine print: “including the time of Jeanine Áñez”.
Lima, the Minister of Justice, refused to budge and announced legal action against Almagro for “continued interference in internal affairs”. The Secretary-General must be held accountable for the serious insinuations and allegations and his irresponsibility.
Although even with a New York Times self-criticism admission that Morales and Bolivian democracy were chased off stage by a brutal coup in November 2019, the British BBC still quotes the coup a year and a half later and calls the de facto head of state illegally installed with the coup an “interim president”. But the official British approach should not be surprised, it has deep roots in Bolivia’s history; for example, with the financing of the Saltpetre War (1879-1883) on Chile’s side against Peru and Bolivia, which culminated in the Chilean annexation of 150,000 km2 of Bolivian territory, including the 450 km long entire coast.
The Scoop after a year and a half: OAS report on alleged “vote rigging” was fed from the British Embassy in La Paz
The reporters Mark Curtis and Matt Kennard of the British investigative group Declassified, who for security reasons published their research on the South African platform Daily Maverick, succeeded in a factual, convincing investigation into the hitherto unknown role of Britain as the protagonist of the coup against ex-President Evo Morales. The intervention has not only been concealed by the British mainstream, but by almost all Western media. It is, however, a hanebüchene and scandalous chronicle, which recalls the centuries-old colonialist activities of the island and ranges from piracy to the cinematographic 007 whitewashing. In La Paz and in the deep Bolivian hinterland, diplomatic personnel, former secret agents, satellite and drone companies, all sanctioned by the Foreign Office, turned their eyes to the Bolivian lithium deposits with the operation.
Two weeks before the coup, Ambassador Glekin offered protection at his residence to Edgar Villegas, a computer engineer and militant anti-Morales activist. Villegas was one of the first to accuse Morales of fraud during the October 2019 elections, and apparently provided the Organization of American States (OEA/OAS) with data that formed the basis of the OAS report, which was later used to justify the government overthrow. Asked about this by Declassified, the State Department stated succinctly,“it is ridiculous to conclude that something inappropriate has happened to it.” But Glekin did not leave it to “protective measures”, he went on the offensive. In the week after the Jeanine Añez regime massacred unarmed demonstrators, Glekin provoked Morales supporters on Twitter to “please follow me.” As a culmination of diplomatic cynicism, the British Embassy held a costume party on the theme of Downton Abbey three weeks after the massacres.
The whole point of Ambassador Glekin’s destabilising activism is that the “evidence of vote rigging” presented by the OAS came in large part from the British residence in La Paz. There Villegas tinkered with election results that were supposed to prove electoral fraud and were forwarded to the OAS. However, just a few days after submitting his report to the OAS, the right-wing activist left his hiding place and declared, “things were very bad for Evo now and I had the feeling that I could go home”. The OAS published its final report on 10 November 2019, prompting Army chief Morales to resign. O-Ton Villegas;“When Evo gave up, it was the happiest day of my life”.
However, the intervention in the election result was only a sub-plot in a broader British operation.
The “Lithium War” : Britain’s satellites, secret agents and plots with the putschists
According to all indications, the British Foreign Office had previously commissioned an Oxford company with a study on the “optimisation” of Bolivian lithium stocks after Evo Morales‘ escape. The British embassy also acted as a “strategic partner” for the coup regime, according to Declassified, and held an international mining event in Bolivia four months after the coup. The Foreign Office then reported that a company founded by a veteran of the British Army was prepared to offer its “services” to mining companies. But long before that, eight months before the military coup, the British embassy had already brought a British cybersecurity firm with close ties to the CIA to Bolivia in March 2019.
What should these moves do on the chessboard?
Lithium prospecting with British satellites
Over the past five years, the UK government has made lithium battery technology a priority of its “industrial strategy”. In June 2019, it announced that it would invest £ 23 million in the development of electric car batteries. Downing Street looked at the map of South America and realised that “it is estimated that South America has 54 per cent of the world’s lithium resources, which are increasingly needed to produce batteries for electric vehicles and diversify energy”.
The government wanted bilateral partnerships, but obstacles stood in the way in Bolivia. In February 2019, the Evo Morales government selected a Chinese consortium as a strategic partner for a $ 2.3 billion lithium project to focus on lithium production at the Coipasa and Pastos Grandes salt lakes. After the coup, however, the regime’s new mining minister doubted that the de facto Añez government would comply with the agreement. But exactly Coipasa and Pastos Grandes were of interest to the British embassy. A project funded by the UK and Bolivia between 2019 and 2020 aimed to"optimise the exploration and production of lithium in Bolivia (in the Salarios de Coipasa and Pastos Grandes) using British technology”. After the coup, this project progressed quickly, Declassified. The project was commissioned on 25 April 2017. It was approved by its main sponsor, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), on November 20, 2019, two weeks after the coup and a few days after the massacre in Senkata, and financed with $ 100,000.
Subsequently, the British Embassy in La Paz provided £ 5,000 for an appraisal of this lithium project, but the Department of Foreign Affairs refused to confirm Declassified whether these funds were disbursed after the November 2019 coup. The goal was to"develop and implement a satellite-based application to optimize the exploration and exploitation of large/better lithium sources at the Coipasa and Pastos Grandes salines in Bolivia." The Foreign Office then announced that the project was being carried out by Satellite Applications Catapult – an Oxford – based organization that “helps organizations leverage the capabilities of satellite-based services.” Significantly, the company receives about a third of its funds from the British government and was silent after requests from Declassified about the Bolivia project. However, the researchers noted that Satellite Applications Catapult received a total of £ 33,220 from the government on 19 December 2019.
Break indigenous resistance, ensure British lithium supply
Four months after the coup, the British Embassy in La Paz, in collaboration with the Añez regime’s Ministry of Mines, held an “international seminar” in March 2020 for more than 300 officials in the global commodities sector. For this purpose, the embassy commissioned the British company Watchman with the keynote presentation and the description of “creative solutions” (sic!), which had proven successful in Africa by involving local communities in mining projects. According to Foreign Office documents, “Watchman UK and other consulting firms are now online to provide services in this important area to various Bolivian mining companies that want win-win solutions to their disputes with local residents and indigenous peoples in their areas of influence.”
To present: Watchman is a so-called” risk management company " founded in 2016 by Christopher Goodwin-Hudson, a veteran veteran of the British Army who later served as Chief Global Security Officer for Goldman Sachs. According to its own statements, the company supports corporate customers “in the areas of raw material, agricultural and capital projects” who have “operating problems” due to local resistance.
The company’s deputy director, Gabriel Carter, held various senior positions in the private security industry and in 2012 founded a security company focused on Afghanistan that"supported numerous British and American development projects.” Carter, also a risk management veteran at Goldman Sachs, is a member of the Special Forces Club, a private association reserved exclusively for veteran intelligence and Special Forces members in Knightsbridge, London.
The official punchline: The website Watchman – Specialist Risk Management bears the logo of the British Foreign Office.
The British lithium operation is rich in anecdotal facets and has what it takes for a Sean Connery 007 remake with the dazzling title “The Lithium Battle at Pastos Grandes”. However, the" battle " is likely to be lost for Britain. There are self-evident reasons why the government of Luis Arce would not continue a cooperation after this agent staging.