Desperately Seeking An Argentine At The World Economic Forum

At the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Mexico, AméricaEconomía tries to get a handle on Cristina Kirchner’s nationalization of gas and oil company YPF - and Spain’s fierce reaction. But getting an Argentine to speak frankly on the matter is no si

War of words
War of words
Carlos Tromben

PUERTO VALLARTA – On the second day of the World Economic Forum on Latin America, things were calming down after Tuesday when Spain's Mariano Rajoy had launched a heavy artillery attack against Argentina.

The verbal fireworks between Spain and Argentina has now subsided. And there are fewer people milling about the hallways, making it all that much trickier for me to find an Argentine participant prepared to comment on President Cristina Kirchner's controversial decision to nationalize the partly Spanish-owned oil company YPF. I can forget about tracking down anyone from Kirchner's staff – the funcionarios K, as they're called in Argentina. There are hardly any Argentine business leaders around either.

My question is whether the Spanish government's fierce reaction to the takeover is primarily based on the magnitude of the assets in question, the complicated place that Argentina occupies in the Spanish imagination or on the current economic crisis in Spain. After all, Repsol is not the first Spanish company that's been nationalized recently in Latin America. Hugo Chávez nationalized Banco Santander in Venezuela. Bolivia's Evo Morales seized control of Repsol's YPFB Andina, although he did so without completely taking it away from the company. But you Cristina?

But as much as I wander through the corridors, I don't hear any Argentine accents. Until suddenly, bingo! A member of the country's Jewish community who says he's Argentine – sort of. It turns out he's lived in Peru for the past 25 years. The man is cautious, but he does have an opinion. He says there are various factors that can explain YPF's nationalization, but the main reason is the influence of a member of the Economic Ministry who seems to have substantial policy sway -- and happens to hold the unorthodox view that businesses should not be allowed to generate more that 6% in profits. "And, well, to make that argument here...." he says, looking around without finishing his thought, as if someone might be listening.

The idea that he mentioned isn't completely unheard of. Hugo Chávez's economic minister has gone on record saying basically the same thing.

That's not, of course, the conventional way of thinking. Experience has shown that putting an "ethical" cap on profits is a great way to scare off investors and condemn countries to international ostracism. But maybe Cristina Kirchner was thinking of a "tailored" nationalization: one that's not based on anti-business or anti-foreigner ideology, but rather on anti-Spanish feelings. That would be a reason for the wound to sting that much worse in Madrid.

Read the original article in Spanish

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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

— 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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