Take physic, pomp

Bolivia to sue Spain for three billion dollars

You might remember in the back of your mind an ongoing news story from the last couple of years about Odyssey Marine Exploration, a US shipwreck/treasure-hunting company quoted on the Nasdaq (OMEX) that hit the absolute jackpot when they found 500,000 gold and silver coins in a wreck on the seabed off Spain. The story then developed as Spain wouldn’t let the company make off with the booty and now the inevitable lawsuit is trying to work out who gets the spoils.

So the twist starts here: Now the gov’t of Peru, hearing that the origins of the coins were from their shores, is now getting into the fight. This weekend Justice Minister Rosario Fernández said that Peru has “valid arguments” as the rightful owner of the treasure and will make it a three-cornered fight in the courtrooms for ownership.

Y’know what? That sounds perfectly valid to me. The days of the Conquistadores are well documented and nobody seriously doubts that the coinage that turned Spain into the power it was and the Cathedrals of Madrid, Seville etc adorned with metals all came off the back of indigenous slave labour in the harshest of conditions. I think Peru has a decent shot at getting back that which was stolen from it all those years ago.

But let’s not stop there! I have a sneakydeaky plan to write to Evo Morales and suggest that Bolivia takes Spain to court to claim U$3Bn. A figure, quite frankly, that scratches the surface but has equally solid claims (probably better, in fact) as that of Peru in its upcoming fight. Y’see, the main source of Spain’s silver was the fabled Cerro Rico mountain of Potosí. The mines of Potosí in the times of the worst excesses of Spanish slave labour produced some 45,000 metric tonnes of silver, 7,0000MT of which was given directly to the Spanish crown. Let’s go out on a limb and quote Wikipedia on the subject:


It is from Potosí that most of the silver shipped through the Spanish Main came. According to official records, 45,000 tons of pure silver were mined from Cerro Rico from 1556 to 1783. Of this total, 7,000 tons went to the Spanish monarchy. Indian labour, forced by Francisco de Toledo, Count of Oropesa through the traditional Incan mita institution of contributed labor, came to die by the thousands, not simply from exposure and brutal labor, but by mercury poisoning: in the patio process the silver-ore, having been crushed to powder by hydraulic machinery, was cold-mixed with mercury and trodden to an amalgam by the native workers with their bare feet. [2] The mercury was then driven off by heating, producing deadly vapors.


Thus armed with evidence, we slap a lawsuit on Spain’s tush.

Now we’re not going to get greedy on this one. Let’s not go for the 45KMT that went here, there and everywhere. Let’s just claim on the 7,000MT of silver directly taken by Spain’s government. Thus if we do the bistromatics, that 7,000MT works out at a little over 225 million troy ounces of silver. And rather than be greedy and claim interest due on the sums involved (which on 200 years of compounding would almost certainly mean that Bolivia suddenly owns Spain), let’s just claim today’s spot price of U$13/oz on that little lot. So that’s U$2.92Bn….hell, let’s call it a round three, shall we?

I’ll tell you something, I’ve seen flimsier civil cases than this one prosper. Anyone got Evo’s home phone number?

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