Former President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, urged lithium-producing countries to take advantage of what he calls the decline of the US as a superpower to nationalize the lithium industry. By doing so, the Latin American region could play a major role in the world’s economics.
“The west does not want us to add value to our natural resources. If we industrialize the peoples’ lithium in the hand of the state, we could be global powers, at least in this environment,” Morales said at a conference at the El Rosario University in Argentina.
Morales referred to the Argentinean, Chilean and Mexican cases, since the countries are thought to hold over 68 percent of the global lithium reserves. He mentioned that the region is reorientating its position, as the US is losing influence. Morales said that the US is “in decline” and cited the Summit of the Americas, where some countries protested the US’ decision to exclude Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from the summit. This could provide countries with the opportunity to redefine their position in the global economy.
Morales expressed hope for the recently elected left-wing presidents Gabriel Boric and Gustavo Petro in Chile and Colombia, respectively. He also said that Latin American countries should reinforce the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a regional organization that does not include the US and Canada.
Different lithium strategies have been proposed in Latin America. Some countries have chosen for the nationalization of the strategic mineral as proposed by Mexican President López Obrador and Morales. Others propose privatization and negotiation as a block to ensure fair prices for producers. In June, the Latin American Strategy Center for Geopolitics (CELAG) proposed the creation of an OPEC-like organization for lithium producing countries, with the intention to negotiate fair prices as a bloc.
In May 2022, the Latin American Chamber of Lithium (CALBAMERICA) was created, gathering professionals and SMEs from Argentina, Chile and Peru. The Chamber aimed to give SMEs more opportunities to participate in the lithium exploitation process, as well as bargain fair prices as a bloc. The chamber seeks to invite Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil. Nevertheless, Pablo Rutigliano, President, CALBAMERICA, disagrees with López Obrador’s nationalization strategy.