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Germany pressing Bolivian coup regime to revive lithium exploitation deal scrapped by Morales

GERMANY is set to press Bolivia’s president to revive a lithium deal, just a month after the previous incumbent Evo Morales was ousted by a US-backed “fascist coup.”

German companies manufacturing electric cars in Europe need access to the South American country’s massive lithium reserves  and had struck an agreement that would have allowed ACI Systems Germany (Acisa) to industrialise the sector.

But Mr Morales scrapped a decree allowing the German firm, in partnership with state-owned lithium company YLB, to exploit 21 million tonnes of the natural resource at the Uyuni salt lake.

He was ousted by a US-backed coup just days later.

New head of YLB Juan Carlos Zuleta said it was unlikely that the deal would be put back on the table.

But speaking earlier this week, Acisa chief executive Wolfgang Schmutz said the company was still working on the project and expected the incoming president to reopen discussions.

“We assume that under the new government, Mr Zuleta will either remain head of YLB or be replaced by another competent expert. As soon as the new government is in office, we’ll quickly seek talks with them,” he said.

Germany’s Economy Ministry confirmed that it was in talks with the coup administration in La Paz.

“It is also the ministry’s assessment that the next elected Bolivian government will ultimately have to decide how to proceed with the lithium project,” it said in a statement.

Mr Morales, who is in exile in Argentina, said he had been overthrown by a “fascist, racist plot” backed by Washington to gain control of his country’s lithium resources.

Their value “has increased markedly in international markets over recent years because it is a fundamental raw material” in the manufacture of eco-friendly technologies and electric batteries, the former president explained.

The coup against the democratically elected leader was an “act of revenge by the United States, which never accepted the loss of control of the Bolivian lithium market in favour of Chinese and German companies.”

According to the current Bolivian constitution, lithium can only be extracted and processed by Bolivians, but privateers are pressing for access to the country’s vast resources.

The US was angered by Bolivia’s plans to develop lithium production with China. The total value of trade deals between the two countries grew from $75 million (£57m) to $2.25bn (£1.72bn) between 2000 and 2014.

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