In Venezuela, A Warning Call As The Final Opposition TV Network Closes Shop

A 2008 demonstration in support of Globovision in front of the network's building in Caracas
A 2008 demonstration in support of Globovision in front of the network's building in Caracas

SANTIAGO - Venezuelan television network Globovision has announced it had accepted a purchase offer, and its sale would be finalized shortly after the presidential election on April 14.

Globovision’s board of directors explained that they were selling the station because its operation had become both legally and financially impossible due to harassment from the government and the rampant inflation in Venezuela.

That is not good news. Globovision – a 24-hour news network – was the only station that opposed Hugo Chavez’s government, criticizing both the words and actions of the government and giving favorable coverage to the opposition. Its editorial position has sometimes been sensationalist, but it was also the only dissonant voice in the ocean of official television broadcasts. It was an honor for Globovision to be frequently accused of bias by Chavez, as was CNN.

Globovision has been paying million-dollar fines for years to the media regulatory agency for its coverage. The network doesn’t have access to public advertising revenue, and the government even put pressure on private companies to pull advertising from the network. The government denied access to official press conferences and sources of official information, even going to the extreme of encouraging rioters who attacked the station. Since the beginning of 2013, the Institute of Press and Society, an NGO that investigates attacks on the freedom of the press, has already documented 21 attacks or cases of harassment against Globovision journalists.

As if that were not enough, last month the government did not include Globovision in the 11 stations that will be allowed to make the transition from analogue to digital transmission.

The network’s president, Guillermo Zuloaga, has been exiled in the United States since 2010, when he applied for political asylum after continual political and financial harassment. It was his son who announced the upcoming sale in a letter to the company’s employees.

Silencing the opposition

Zuloaga announced that the board of directors had accepted a buyout offer from Juan Domingo Cordero, a Venezuelan businessman, president of an insurance company and the former head of the Caracas stock exchange. Not much is known about his political opinions, but it is at least clear that he is not a voice of the opposition. His insurance company has many important contracts with government agencies.

Globovision is the only television network that gave favorable coverage to Chavez’s opponent in the presidential race, Henrique Capriles, and it will continue giving him positive coverage until the day of the next election. But the bottom line is that the problem is much larger than Globovision, larger than a TV station, radio station or newspaper.

The bottom line is that over the past 13 years the government of Hugo Chavez has used laws, regulations and threats to silence the opposition press, all the while constructing a state media empire. It’s not just that the press stopped covering the opposition politicians, but that the state-owned press prevents Venezuelans from knowing about environmental degradation, negligence and corruption, all of which have been on the rise throughout Venezuela due to the suppression of the free press.

One can’t even hope that the future government of Nicolas Maduro will change the situation. There’s little hope that Maduro will give Globovision digital rights, at least not under the current ownership, nor that he will stop harassing journalists who try to expose government wrongdoings.

But if Nicolas Maduro thought a little about his responsibility as a leader and his country, he would slowly start bringing back the freedom of the press that Venezuela so desperately needs.

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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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