Central Bank Discotheque, Part Of Alleged Kirchner-Era Excess

Cristina Kirchner in December 2015
Cristina Kirchner in December 2015

BUENOS AIRES â€" For supporters and critics alike, the recently concluded eight years of President Cristina Kirchner"s government provided no shortage of bright lights and loud music.

Now, just over a month after the presidential victory of Kirchner rival Mauricio Macri, emerging headlines tell of a secret bonafide disco party.

Clarín reports that new Central Bank chief Carlos Melconian claims to have found a "private discotheque" in one of the bank's offices that he believes was built by the scandal-plagued former Vice President Amado Boudou.

Kirchner administraton critics believe a massive spending spree has contributed to raising public debts to near 7% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Clarin, a top Buenos Aires daily, reports that Melconian and his entourage toured their new offices during his first day at work, and found a locked room without keys. When the room was forced open, it revealed a virtual party pad, complete with music systems and a colorful twirling disco globe. Neither Kirchner or Boudou have commented on the latest reports regarding the Central Bank finding.

Clarin notes that Kirchner herself was not averse to certain luxuries, and quite alien to the "poor" Argentinians who she and her Peronist party claimed to defend. In the old tradition of Evita Perón, another lover of luxuries, Kirchner's goodies included a private helicopter pad built at the city's arts and science fairground, Tecnópolis, as well as a "presidential boudoir."

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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