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WORLD | 08-04-2024 16:33

Elon Musk and Latin America: Ideological affinities and business opportunities

Billionaire Elon Musk is using his social network X to take communion with the right-wing in Latin America, a region with natural resources that could help make him even richer.

Is Elon Musk interested in Latin America? 

The billionaire is using hisX social network to take communion with the right-wing credo in a region whose natural resources could make him even richer. 

Over the last few years, the billionaire businessman’s ideas have coincided with conservatives in the region and Musk has expressed them without filters, although he tries not to be politically pigeon-holed.

“Venezuela has a great wealth of natural resources. If [late former president Hugo] Chávez had not destroyed his economy by increasing the role of the government to extreme socialism,  the country would be very prosperous,” he posted last week on X.

Opposition leader María Corina Machado – the main rival of President Nicolás Maduro but who is barred from running for the highest office – reacted on the same network by saying that Venezuelans were fighting “for freedom and democracy.”

“Venezuela’s vast wealth of natural resources will be made use of to rebuild the nation and turn it into a prosperous country with a modern market economy and a rule of law, open to global investment in all sectors, once we get over Maduro’s dictatorship,” she declared.

In February, Musk – the founder of or main investor in electric carmaker Tesla, Space X (aerospace), Neuralink (brain chips) and OpenAI (artificial intelligence) – reacted to a speech made by El Salvador President Nayib Bukele at an ultra-conservative forum near Washington.

“He’s right,” the businessman stated, commenting about a fragment in which Bukele warned about the danger of criminality and drug-dealing in the United States.

Yet regardless of his ideological affinities, Musk is said to be a pragmatic man, an entrepreneur with a great nose for business.

“Prosperity is about to reach Argentina,” the second-richest man in the world posted when Javier Milei won last year’s election.

“We have to talk, Elon,” Milei responded on X.

In an interview broadcast last Friday on Bloomberg Television, Milei stated he would meet “soon”  with Musk, who would be “an active player with an essential role in the new Argentina.”

“Starlink is already breaking into Argentina,” said Milei.

Musk wants to take over the Latin American market with Starlink, his online satellite Internet company improving connectivity and offering it in untapped locations. With the firm already active in countries such as Chile or Brazil, Musk has also closed a deal with Mexico, where he will build a new Tesla factory.

Argentina could well be a gold mine for Musk’s electric vehicle, as it forms part of the “Lithium Triangle,” together with Bolivia and Chile. In addition, the so-called ‘white gold’ is an essential mineral to produce batteries.

Musk, a South African businessman who lived as a migrant until he became a US citizen in 2002, is nothing if not controversial. But his reality has nothing to do with the dearth of millions of Latin Americans emigrating to the United States to flee violence, corruption or poverty. 

Nevertheless, migration is one of his recurring topics on X, where he defends himself from those who dismiss him as anti-migrant.

Last September, during a visit to the Mexican border, accompanied by Republican Congressman Tony Gonzáles, Musk claimed to be in favour of migration for “hard-working and honest” people and criticised those who “break the law.”

Last week he stated that robberies committed by Chilean gangs who entered the United States thanks to the Visa Waiver Programme would get worse “unless action is taken.”

A few months out from the US presidential election – a showdown between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump – it is unknown whether the millionaire will ask people to vote for one candidate in particular.

A month ago, he announced he would not be making direct donations to campaigns, but it is impossible to anticipate what Musk, an unpredictable man who has often created trouble for those managing his companies, will do.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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