I DON’T get to watch much television these days. But when I do, I’m partial to a political thriller, even when sitting down knowing the storyline might be a tad implausible.

That was my first thought when I switched on the second series of Jack Ryan, the story of the up-and-coming CIA analyst and fictional character created by American thriller writer Tom Clancy and played in movie versions of his books, perhaps most memorably by Harrison Ford.

Set around espionage and terrorism, Clancy’s blockbuster Jack Ryan books-cum-movies – like Clear And Present Danger, Patriot Games and The Sum Of All Fears – were always a cut above the average political thriller, even if at times they were rather star-spangled and gung-ho.

Like all the best thrillers, each have an eye for detail born out of thorough research and above all a real prescience in terms of the global backdrop against which they are set. The latest series takes troubled Venezuela as its stage, where the state is collapsing and shadowy private security companies (mercenaries) struggle for control of the country’s vast natural resources.

As well Venezuela’s vast oil reserves, these include the mining of the mineral coltan, out of which tantalum is extracted, an ingredient without which our modern electronic computerised age would almost cease to function.

Or to put it another way, all those mobile phones, laptops, games consoles and cars we use all need tantalum capacitors in order to work.

READ MORE: Four Corners: Morales flees Bolivia after election result

I know a little about coltan having covered stories on its mining (often illegal) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which is both blessed and cursed by being one of the most resource-rich countries on the planet.

I say blessed because there is obviously big money in such resources and cursed for precisely the same reason, given that it so often leads to such countries becoming battlegrounds for access to supplies and the huge profits they engender at the expense of the most vulnerable.

Look almost anywhere in the world right now and so many of the conflicts and much of the political instability or attempted regime change by outside players is driven by this insatiable demand for such resources. Even when it’s not the direct cause, it’s often at least a determining factor or is such a common reason that observers factor it in automatically.

Just take events in Bolivia these past days, where the ouster of Bolivian president Evo Morales has left a politically polarised take on just what exactly happened in the country. A coup d’etat say some, nothing of the sort say others, insisting it was the will of some Bolivians fed up with a leader who had become increasingly autocratic.

The National:

Whoever’s right here, there’s certainly no getting away from the fact that Bolivia is rich in natural resources.

On paper at least, Bolivia has probably more potential lithium resources in the ground than any other country. Lithium, of course, is one of the key components in lithium ion batteries that, like tantalum, help power our digital world.

Let me be clear about what I’m saying here. While the political upheaval in Bolivia was a result of many factors, it’s hard to imagine some in transnational corporate and political quarters being unhappy with Morales’s ousting if it make access to lithium and other resources easier and more profitable.

Historically, Bolivia, like many parts of Latin and Central America, is no stranger to coups orchestrated by the military and others on behalf of transnational mining or other giant companies. Back in the day, it was tin. Today, why not over lithium?

I’m reminded of a description in the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by the great Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who describes the arrival of the “Banana Company” in the fictional jungle town of Macondo.

He describes how it imported “dictatorial foreigners” and “hired assassins with machetes” to run the town. It also “moved the river from where it had always been” and unleashed a “wave of bullets” on striking workers in the plaza.

There is nothing new in such predatory corporate behaviour, of course. Just think of the United Fruit Company. After all, didn’t the US military topple regimes and oversee the massacre of thousands to keep the business of US corporations booming during the Banana Wars of the early 20th century?

These days little has changed, for wasn’t it President Donald Trump recently that ordered US troops to protect oil rather than the Kurds he abandoned in Syria?

But before anyone starts thinking that the US is the only villain of the piece here, let’s not forget that the UK has its own considerable historical and recent form in this most pernicious and often shadowy allegiance of big business and government.

RIGHT now across the world, the geopolitical battle for resources, be it gold, tin, cobalt, copper, timber, uranium, oil or whatever, is as ruthless as it’s ever been.

Just this week, for example, Russia announced it wanted an end to an international embargo on “blood” diamonds exported from the Central African Republic (CAR). Across parts of sub-Saharan Africa, I’ve seen for myself how this trade in illegal diamonds has been linked to corruption, violence, civil war, rape and murder.

Back in 2013, diamond exports from CAR were banned completely over concerns that profits were fuelling some of the country’s most violent armed groups. Now Russia wants exports to be legalised.

Over the years I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me who or what lies behind the persistent conflicts and political instability that afflicts so many countries deemed to be “poor”.

The answer itself so often lies in other questions, like what drives illegal mining? Who is paying out for smuggled diamonds or coltan, the clearing of rainforests or the mercenaries and militias used to strong-arm communities into giving up their land to allow access to such resources?

Tom Clancy’s latest Jack Ryan thriller series set in Venezuela might be the stuff of fiction, but so much of it has its base in fact. The battle for global resources knows no bounds and has few rules even in the “real” world.