Above Photo: “The US installed Dina (Boluarte) to get lithium and cocaine.” Twitter @OllieVargas79.
The people of Peru demand that their lithium reserves benefit that nation through a nationalization process.
And that their environment be protected when their resources are extracted.
National Strike, Day 110
The Peruvian coup regime remains entrenched in power more than four months after the parliamentary coup that ousted democratically elected President Pedro Castillo. On April 10th, the de facto Minister of Energy and Mines Óscar Vera announced the coup government would grant permits to Macusani Yellowcake , subsidiary of Canadian mining company Plateau Energy Metals, which as of 2021 is a subsidiary of American Lithium in the Macusani town of the Puno region. This comes in the wake of the anti-coup protests that placed lithium as one of the main resources the coup government, serving its transnational corporate interests, would move swiftly to privatize. Leaders of the Puno region, including the National Platform for People Affected by Metals, Metalloids and Other Toxic Chemical Substances, have stated clearly that until there is respect for the people of Puno, the lithium will not leave.
This comes after the unanimous decision by the Council of Original Aymara and Quechua Authorities in Ilave, Puno with the participation of 3,000 community members to continue defending the sovereignty of their territories, and not exploit lithium without nationalization and industrialization within Perú to benefit the people of the 13 provinces of Puno. According to one leader, “We will not allow lithium to leave the highlands without industrialization, we will exercise our legitimate right over the sovereignty of lithium for the Aymara, Quechua, and Amazonian peoples. Lithium will not be freely disposed of as they believe in Lima.” However, the coup regime in Lima has not consulted these communities in Puno, or so much as done environmental surveys in the area to minimize environmental degradation.
The people of Puno, much like the coup regime and its corporate masters, understand the importance of lithium in the 4th industrialization and have seen the advances that nationalizing that mineral can mean for the people in neighboring Bolivia. This coup was always about getting to the lithium of Puno, along with all the other vast minerals and resources Perú contains. As a young protester from Asillo, Puno told me, “They have negotiated international treaties with legal contracts with companies that exploit our raw materials; we are simply a raw material exporting country. And we as young people think that in the 21st century we can transform these resources.”
The battle in Puno, much like the broader struggle in Perú, is to end the ransacking of natural resources by transnational corporations with no regard for the people of those lands whose soil and waters become contaminated, whose labor is exploited for 1 sol an hour, whose roads and infrastructure remain dilapidated, and whose children must walk for hours to get an underfunded education. As Pedro Castillo stated in an interview with El Salto publication, “the whole problem has to do with lithium. Imperialism wants lithium and my government wanted to give lithium to the people.” One could say this is why Bolivia’s president Luis Arce has proposed the creation of a Latin American wide Lithium OPEC to jointly design a lithium policy throughout the region that prioritizes the development of those countries. Mexico’s AMLO also recently announced the nationalization of that country’s lithium deposits, and Chile’s Gabriel Boric also made a similar announcement that puts the mineral at the center of future development of Latin American countries, using their own natural resources to fund public services like education, housing, healthcare, etc. This is what the people of Puno are fighting for- sovereignty over their lands and resources to improve the lives of people on those lands.
The region is making a transition from raw material exporting countries to sovereign nations that industrialize their own resources and trade internationally to benefit their own people. Those at the forefront of these struggles understand that it’s more than just raw materials. This is about life itself, about future generations. As we see yet another social leader assassinated by private interests (¡Santiago Contoricón presente!) for defending territorial rights, the Peruvian people yearn and are fighting for the sovereignty that the current coup regime is selling off to the highest bidders, mostly Western entities.