“What we are doing now … is to nationalize lithium so that it cannot be exploited by foreigners from Russia, China or the United States.”

Chile: The Far-Right Strikes Back for White Gold

by Michael Livingston  Women Against Military Madness Newsletter, Vol. 41, No. 3, Summer 2023


18 May 2023

On Sunday, May 7th, the Chilean far right struck back with a vengeance. In the national elections for the second constitutional assembly in two years (the first ended in the rejection of a new, post-Pinochet constitution),[1] the far-right Parido Republicano (Republican Party) won 35 percent of the vote and gained 23 of the 50 seats in the assembly. The traditional right wing won an additional 11 seats. Together the far right and traditional right control an absolute majority of 34 seats, or 68 percent of the votes.[2]

This is a major blow for the Chilean people and their efforts to free themselves from the straitjacket of the Pinochet-era constitution with its neoliberal model of capitalism which destroys the social safety net, privatizes health care and education, and gives large corporations control of natural resources.

This is also a major blow for the leftist President Gabriel Boric and the forces for change. Together, Boric’s center-left coalition and the far left hold only 16 seats in the constitutional assembly, not enough to block any proposed changes by the far right and traditional right.[3]

The current far-right resurgence is about lithium, a key component in electronics and crucial to electronic vehicles.

The Partido Republicano is a new force in Chilean politics that was founded in 2019 and named after the pro-Pinochet party by the same name that existed in Chile in the 1980s. The party has close ties to the far-right fascist party Vox in Spain. Its leader is 57-year-oldJ osé Antonio Kast, a charismatic and telegenic former member of the Chilean congress. In his last presidential run, Kast lost to current President Boric in the second round. At that time Kast boasted that “if General Pinochet were alive, he would vote for me.”[4]

This September 11th marks the 5th anniversary of the violent U.S.- backed coup that installed the Pinochet dictatorship and destroyed Chile’s democratic government, imposing neoliberalism on the country. That coup was about copper and who got to control it-  the people of Chile or transnational corporations.

The current far-right resurgence is about lithium, a key component in electronics and crucial to electronic vehicles. Control of lithium, often called “white gold,” is essential to the current neoliberal model of capitalism. Chile, along with Argentina and Bolivia, is part of the Lithium Triangle, an area that holds 75 percent of the world’s lithium supply.[5] The triangle is emerging as a major focus of imperialist attention, just as the Middle East emerged as a major focus 100 years ago with its vast oil supplies. To truly understand the current rise of the far-right in Chile as well as the 2019 soft coup against President Evo Morales in Bolivia, focus on the white gold. [6]

Michael Livingston is a longtime peace and antiwar activist. He has lived and worked in Honduras, Chile, and Spain and is a professor at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

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U.S. Energy and Electric Vehicles: How Clean Are the Politics?

From 2016-2019, over 90 percent of the lithium imported to the United States came from Argentina (55 percent) and Chile (36 percent). – energy.gov

The Biden Administration recently passed legislation investing in clean energy and the lithium industry. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included an emphasis on electrical vehicles and clean energy technologies. Specifically, the deal contained a $65 billion investment in innovations within the sphere of clean energy as part of the overall goal to become a zero-emissions economy…the administration passed the Inflation Reduction Act which provided funding to domestic-based clean energy projects and battery production. These two bills represent a conscious effort to enhance U.S. energy production, thus requiring more lithium. – Zachy Booth, “U.S. Involvement in the Lithium Triangle,” April 14, 2023, ace-usa.org

“What we are doing now … is to nationalize lithium so that it cannot be exploited by foreigners from Russia, China or the United States,” Lopez Obrador said at the event [press conference by the Mexican president]. – Reuters, February 18, 2023


[1]See: “Chile Is Having a Constitution Do-over, but the Ghost of Pinochet Remains,” Spring 2023 Vol. 41, No. 1 of the Women Against Military Madness Newsletter.

[2]El Pais, 9 May 2023, p. 2. La ultra derecha chilena enca bezará el consejo para cambiar la Constitución (The Chile ultra rightwill head the Council to change the Constitution) byRocio Montes.

[3]Ibid endnote 2

[4]El País, 14 May 2023, p. 12. José Antonio Kast, el católico de extrema derecha que seduce a Chile, by Rocio Montes. (José Antonio Kast, the extreme-right Catholic who seduces Chile.)

[5]The Lithium Triangle: Where Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia Meet, 15 January 2020. Harvard International Review, www.hir.harvard.edu.

[6]Bolivia: Anatomy of a Coup, 29 November 2019, by Jeff Mackler and Lazaro Monteverde. www.counterpunch.org.

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