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Walking around the Uyuni salt flats, all you see is a dry and crusty white nothingness stretching to the horizon. But underneath this almost-lunar landscape in Bolivia’s Andean plateau is half the world’s lithium – the lightest metal on the planet, used in the batteries that drive a host of modern gadgetry and a potential power source for electric vehicles.

Now Bolivia wants to cash in on the value to be added to this precious resource, with the opening of the country’s first lithium processing plantRead more

Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, was often cast as a champion of the environment. So much, that last month Bolivia passed the world’s first ruling that grants rights to nature.

The law, which the former llama herder and coca grower called a means “to live in equilibrium and harmony with Mother Earth,” gives spiritual value to the land – way beyond its intrinsic environmental, social, and not to mention, economic significance. Read more

It took a while – over ninety years since the last one and almost nine months since it was first announced. But Bolivia finally took the plunge into the global credit market on Monday, with the launch of a $500m bond issue. Read more

After comings and goings, Bolivia’s leftist government with an indigenous twist finally ruled out paying compensation to Canada’s South American Silver, two months after their mining licence was revoked.

“The nation has no financial obligation to South American Silver,” mining minister Mario Virreira told reporters, adding there was “never any document establishing that the Bolivian government had a contractual relationship” with the Vancouver-based company. Read more

Next time a president of a resource-rich country thinks nationalisation of mining assets is a way of solving internal conflicts, s/he would do well to take a look at Bolivia, where salaried and independent miners have been violently fighting for the control of a recently nationalised mine. Read more

He believes capitalism has grown a little old. He believes that system is in decline. He believes nationalisations would not scare away foreign investors. He believes people would rush to buy his bonds. He believes he has the right alternative. Let beyondbrics introduce you Bolivia’s finance minister, Luis Arce Catacora (pictured).

“We are facing a structural crisis of capitalism. Capitalism is the old man around, an old man that is no longer responding to the advances of mankind demands. It is time for a change.” Read more

Mining has been the backbone of the recent growth of Bolivia and Peru. It also seems to be potential money spinner for their Andean neighbour, Ecuador. But despite certain ideological similarities, when it comes to mining, the approaches of their leaders seem to differ.

In Bolivia, after some protracted protests, the government of Evo Morales on Thursday signed a decree authorizing the seizure of a silver deposit operated by South American Silver, part of a Canadian mining group. Read more

That was then

Bolivia looked friendly enough back in 2007 when India’s Jindal Steel & Power Ltd secured 40-year development rights to the El Mutún mine, considered one of the largest untapped iron ore deposits in the world.

But after years of disputes with the leftwing government of Evo Morales, the steel giant has pulled the plug on the $2.1bn mining venture – the single biggest foreign investment in Bolivia. It blamed the decision on the Andean nation’s “non-friendly business attitude.” Read more

It’s been a bad week for mining in Bolivia.

President Evo Morales’ government moved 600 troops to the site of Glencore’s Colquiri tin mine on Friday after 15 people were wounded in ongoing protests between two sets of miners.

Company miners want to “nationalise” the site, which is already owned by state mining company Comibol, but operated by Glencore. Co-operative miners who want access to more parts of the site oppose the move. Read more

By Luis Alberto Arce, finance minister of Bolivia

With a popular mandate to recuperate natural resources and strategic enterprises, the Bolivian government has since 2006 implemented a consistent policy of nationalisation of former state enterprises that were privatised in the early 1990s.

We have not nationalised, nor will we nationalise, genuine investments in the private sector, either domestic or foreign. Read more

Venezuelan bolivars and US dollarsLast year was a great year for Latin America attracting foreign investment – a new report published by the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean found funds coming into the region hit a historic high of $153bn, representing 10 per cent of total global flows.

The 2011 figure is a 12 per cent increase on the previous record of $137bn in FDI to the region, set in 2008. Even better news is that ECLAC predicts that amount “could be exceeded this year”.

But the downside is that, despite the rate at which money is flowing in, multinational companies are also repatriating profits speedily. Read more

Is Bolivian president Evo Morales the poster boy for Latin America’s extreme left? Or for orthodox macroeconomic management?

Morales, a charismatic former coca union leader who swept to power in 2006 on promises to rebalance centuries of inequality, can do fiery rhetoric as well as his leftist allies Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. But just as Morales swapped his bobbly batwing jumpers for tailored suits with an indigenous fabric trim, has he taken a more conservative line when it comes to Bolivia’s bottom line?

Many economists would say yes. Read more

When an avalanche of Spanish capital turned up on Latin America’s doorstep over the turn of the century, naysayers shuddered at headlines that welcomed the “New Conquistadors”. Latin America seemed to many to be a risky bet for Spanish banks, energy and telecommunications companies by comparison with the comfort zone provided by European markets.

Instead, the steady growth of Latin America has provided welcome relief for Spanish companies from the financial turmoil at home. But in recent weeks troubles in the old country have appeared to clip the wings of the Spanish companies in LatAm. A weakened Spain, indeed, seems to have lost political clout in the region. Read more

Evo Morales has gone and done it again. The president of Bolivia has nationalised a local unit of Spain’s Red Electrica, “in honour of all Bolivian people.”

This is not the first time. Two years ago Morales nationalised four electric companies – two of which were foreign – at the “thunderous request of the people”.

In fact, one might argue May Day nationalisations are becoming something of a habit in Bolivia. Read more

Calling all bond-buyers out there: there’s a new sovereign coming to market soon. Boasts solid growth (5.1 per cent last year); six years of fiscal surplus, manageable public debt levels, rising central bank reserves and ratings agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s both give it a positive outlook.

Its name? Bolivia. Read more