Telsa CEO Elon Musk is once again under fire, this time for tweeting “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.” in reference to the 2019 US-backed coup in Bolivia.
Although he later deleted his statement, he doubled down on his stance, tweeting “Congratulations to the people of Bolivia!” on Morales’ ouster.
The pushback to Musk’s apparent confession that he was intimately involved in the violent overthrow of a foreign government and its replacement with a far-right dictatorship was swift. “I’ve been silently fuming about this ever since he tweeted it. It just chokes me up with so much rage I can’t think of anything to say about it. I write for a living and I am still completely without words for this,” wrote independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone. “All oligarchies are composed of trash, but there does seem to be something special about this one,” said writer Justin Podur. Assistant editor of The Grayzone Ben Norton agreed, tweeting, “The fascist Bolivian coup dictatorship has already invited billionaire imperialist Elon Musk to exploit the country’s lithium reserves. When this capitalist oligarch brags “We will coup whoever we want,” take the fascist criminal at his word.”
Paulo Drinot, summed up the event, describing it as the “United Tesla Company.” Drinot, a Professor of Latin American History at University College, London, is referencing the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’etat, where the United Fruit Company, now known as Chiquita, conspired with the U.S. government to overthrow President Jacobo Arbenz, chiefly because the popular leader had initiated land reform that was hurting the company’s bottom line, ensuring the country would return to being nothing more than a banana republic.
Musk’s comments seemed to confirm what many had been saying since the coup took place. Barely 24 hours after the events, Indian academic and writer Vijay Prashad wrote that they “cannot be understood without a glance at the nation’s massive reserves of this crucial mineral.” Morales himself labeled his ouster a “lithium coup d’etat” last year. The former president, who was forced to flee to Argentina or face a lifetime in prison, said that Musk’s words were “more proof that the coup was due to Bolivian lithium; and two massacres as a balance. We will always defend our resources!”
Musk’s company, Tesla, relies on lithium batteries for its electric vehicles. Bolivia is right in the center of the Lithium Triangle” — a region high in the Andes mountain range where over half of the world’s known deposits of the metal lie. With the world beginning to transition away from fossil fuels, the need for energy storage devices is expected to grow exponentially. Morales, a resource nationalist, had for a long time seen lithium as the way forward to industrialize and improve the country’s economy, hoping to keep the technology and profits from battery generation inside Bolivia. Musk’s plans to open a car plant in Brazil and use cheap Bolivian lithium had hit a snag with the defiant president refusing to give him a sweetheart deal. Morales’ successor, the military-backed Jeanine Añez, immediately began privatizing the country’s key resources, and there is widespread speculation that such a deal is imminent after Añez’s running mate in the now-suspended 2020 elections asked Musk to build a factory inside the country.
This is the third time that the far-right Añez administration has postponed the elections due to concerns over the coronavirus, leading many to speculate that no election is forthcoming, particularly because Morales’ Movement to Socialism Party is way ahead in the polls. Morales was elected Bolivia’s president in 2005. A popular and stabilizing force in the often volatile nations, his programs managed to reduce poverty by half and extreme poverty by three quarters, increasing the (inflation-adjusted) per capita GDP by 50 percent in his 13 years in office. Unlike rulers that had come before him, he came from the country’s indigenous majority and was previously a poor farmer and leader of a peasant’s union. He managed to turn the country around primarily through nationalizing its key resources and using the profits to fund social programs. He was among the most vocal critics of U.S. imperialism in the world and, together with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Brazil’s Lula da Silva was one of the key leaders of Latin America’s so-called “Pink Tide,” a continent-wide movement aimed at countering imperialism worldwide.
While the South African billionaire’s words certainly appear damning, he has a long history of making inflammatory statements and trolling others online, which cast some doubt on what he said. In May, he tweeted that Tesla’s stock price was “too high” in his opinion, leading to an instant reduction of over $80 per share in value. He also called Vern Unsworth, a British diver rescuing Thai boys trapped in a cave a “pedo,” after he brushed off Musk’s supposed attempts to help as a useless “P.R. stunt.” For someone so closely connected to the notorious Jeffrey Epstein, it is perhaps not best practice to call other people pedophiles. Musk has been photographed alongside Epstein’s partner Ghislaine Maxwell, and reportedly gave him a private tour of his California SpaceX facility. Epstein also reportedly set Musk’s brother up with his girlfriend.
While the Tesla billionaire’s latest comments are certainly incriminating, it is unlikely that there will be any legal ramifications, as the United States continues to be in full support of the coup. Like with the Epstein case, there are precious few ways to hold the powerful to account if the U.S. government is not interested in pursuing the matter.
Feature photo | President Donald Trump meets with Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, center, and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon during a meeting with business leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Feb. 3, 2017. Evan Vucci | AP
Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.