One pernicious conspiracy theory on Leftist Twitter in the wake of the constitutional crisis in Bolivia in 2019 is that Tesla somehow orchestrated the coup and/or is benefiting from access to the lithium reserves. This is patently ridiculous, as much as it serves as satisfying fodder for people looking for new reason to blame American imperialism for literally all of — and not merely some of — the world’s troubles.
Tesla posted a very positive earnings report on October 23rd. This led to a huge spike in stock prices when the report came out, as it reassured stockholders after a period of a few years where it looked as if Musk’s bombastic personality and ambitious projects were too much for the company to handle. Any benefit that the company could get from supposedly greater access to lithium would not yield results the same day.
Several different graphs of Tesla stock graphs are posted around Twitter that show stock price changes for days later, often from November. These are typically zoomed in very far and represent what are, overall, fairly normal fluctuations in stock prices. Anything that is less than a few percent is not that strange. So called “day traders” are investors who try to catch such bumps — though it ultimately proves to be worse than gambling for most who do it.
Bolivia is ninth in the world in lithium production, with an output that is about 1/350 of Australia — the number one producer. This means Australia produces roughly the amount of lithium in a day that Bolivia produces in a year. Chile and China are currently believed to be the biggest reserves of unmined lithium. The idea that Bolivia is some secret untapped cache of lithium is overstated.
Some have pointed to a German company’s deal to buy Bolivian lithium — but it was a deal made with the Morales administration! This deal was withdrawn after protest from the indigenous communities in the areas that would be affected by the new venture. Much as Morales was a hero as the nation’s first indigenous president, he opened much of the country’s natural resources to exploitation.
Furthermore, it was not as if Morales’ lost of power happened at random. Going by Bolivia’s constitution, Morales should not be able to run for another term as president. He held a national referendum to try to lift the referendum, but it failed. Despite this, he ran anyway. Though the Supreme Tribunal upheld it, they also upheld Áñez, the interim leader’s, presidency.
Hopefully Bolivia’s democratic processes will be restored and the rights of its indigenous people will be protected. Bolivia’s natural resources should be up to the people there to control, not outside, multinational corporations.
However, the conspiracy theory that Tesla is somehow involved in or benefited from the events in Bolivia simply does not hold up to scrutiny. Tesla’s recent successes in the eyes of its investors are behind its stock prices, not due to coincidences in international events.