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US orchestrated ‘coup’ to tap Bolivia’s lithium: Morales

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales has accused the United States of orchestrating a “coup” aimed at gaining access to the Latin American country's vast lithium resources.

Morales, who is now in Argentina and has been in exile since his forced resignation last month, told AFP in an exclusive interview in Buenos Aires on Tuesday that, “It was a national and international coup d’etat.”

“Industrialized countries don’t want competition,” Morales said, adding that Washington had not “forgiven” his country for choosing to seek lithium extraction partnerships with Russia and China rather than the US.

“That’s why I’m absolutely convinced it’s a coup against lithium,” he said. “We as a state had begun industrializing lithium… As a small country of 10 million inhabitants; we were soon going to set the price of lithium. They know we have the greatest lithium reserves in the world of 16,000 square kilometers.”

Lithium is one of the key components in batteries used in high-tech equipment such as laptops and electric cars.

Bolivia is believed to have some 70 percent of the world’s known lithium reserves.

Bolivia’s first indigenous leader resigned in November under pressure from the military in what he said was a US-backed coup d’état against his administration.

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Morales, who had already been president since 2006, won his country’s presidential election in October, but the Bolivian military and opposition claimed that the election had been rigged, inciting deadly street protests.

The Bolivian president — who enjoys a broad popular base both at home and in Latin America — nevertheless decided to resign and go into exile in Mexico amid threats of violence against him and with an apparent intention not to push the country toward further instability.

On December 12, the ex-Bolivian president traveled to Argentina, where the new leftist government of President Alberto Fernandez gave him refuge.

Bolivian regime issues arrest warrant for ex-president Morales

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Since Morales’ departure there has been on-and-off talk of his returning home and potentially reclaiming presidency.

But, in an exclusive interview with a Miami-based American Spanish-language television network last week, Morales said the US was against his return, and that while he had a right to go back, he wouldn’t seek the presidency if he did.

Bolivia’s interim government of President Jeanine Anez has issued an arrest warrant for Morales, with the 60-year-old leftist leader denouncing the warrant as “illegal” and saying the move “doesn’t scare” him.

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