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Chile constitution

Chileans line up to vote on approving or rejecting a new constitution on September 4, 2022 outside the National Stadium in the capital Santiago. (Photo: Javier Torres/AFP via Getty Images)

Washington Post Ripped for 'Neocolonial' Editorial Against Chile's New Constitution

"U.S. capital is worried Chile's working class is gonna make it more difficult to get cheap lithium for your Tesla," quipped one progressive economist.

Brett Wilkins

The editorial board of The Washington Post came under fire Sunday for arguing against Chile's proposed new constitution on the grounds that, if enacted, the document could make it harder for the United States to acquire Chilean lithium.

"Green or not, energy for the North continues to trump democracy in the South."

"Lithium"—the editorial's first word—"is a key input in batteries that run millions of laptops and upon which the United States is basing its electrified automotive future," the piece states.

"Chile sits atop the world's largest lithium reserves; it produced about 25% of the world's commercial supply in 2020," the editors continue. "Chile's impending September 4 referendum on a proposed new constitution... could recast the legal framework for mining in the South American nation, which has an 18-year-old free trade agreement with the United States."

Although the Post notes the new charter "would purge the political order of its vestiges of right-wing military rule and substitute progressive ideals" including "extensive women's and Indigenous rights along with environmentalism," the editors urge Chileans to "send its proposed constitution back for a rewrite."

Panning the Post's motto, Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde tweeted, "Democracy dies in darkness… or in an editorial that in perfect neocolonial fashion argues that lithium trade to U.S. is more important than democracy in Chile."

Irish political analyst and former Sinn Féin adviser Duroyan Fertl asserted that "the opening lines of the Washington Post editorial on Chile's new constitution tell you everything you need to know about imperialism's motivation for opposing the democratic new charter."

Uahikea Maile, a professor of Indigenous politics at the University of Toronto, said that "while Chileans vote on a new constitution—replacing [a] charter imposed via dictatorship shaped by Chicago Boys, The Washington Post recommends the constitution be rewritten because it restricts U.S. access to lithium."

"Green or not, energy for the North continues to trump democracy in the South," Maile added.

Post owner Jeff Bezos and other billionaires including Bill Gates this year invested nearly $200 million in KoBold Metals, which according to "is on a global search for key battery metals cobalt, lithium and nickel, as well as copper, which is key to the green energy transition."

Chilean minerals—and control over them—played an important role in the 1973 U.S.-backed military coup that overthrew democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende and ushered in 17 years of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

Allende put forth a plan to nationalize Chilean copper that was unanimously approved by the country's Congress in 1971, an event celebrated as "Day of National Dignity."

But the plan incensed U.S. copper giants Anaconda and Kennecott, which dominated Chile's market. Those companies were among the U.S. corporations that actively aided Allende's ouster. 

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