Bolivia next for Latin 'regime change' offensive?

US senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Bob Menéndez (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have introduced a resolution calling on Bolivia's President Evo Morales not to stand for re-election this October. Cruz said Bolivia is going in a "very dangerous direction, aligning itself with illegal and illegitimate regimes, including that of [Nicolás] Maduro in Venezuela. It is important that all parties respect the constitution of Bolivia, which includes term limits." (Peru21, Feb. 1) Bolivia saw a wave of strikes and protests after a December ruling by the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal allowing Morales to run for a fourth consecutive term in the 2019 election.

The resolution comes just as Bolivia has announced a new partnership with Chinese company Xinjiang TBEA Group to exploit the country's valuable and largely untapped lithium deposits. TBEA will be a 49% partner in the project, in association with another Chinese firm, America Baocheng Development, and the state company Bolivian Lithium Deposits (YLB). The agreement covers sites in the Coipasa salt flats of Oruro department and the Pastos Grandes salt flats of Potosí. (Prensa Latina, Reuters)

China has for years been seeking deals to exploit Bolivia's strategic lithium reserves, part of what some have called a global design by Beijing to establish a "stranglehold" on the planet's rare earth minerals.