A Not-So-Fond Farewell To Bogota’s Disastrous Mayor

Gustavo Petro, the former Marxist guerrilla who became Bogotá's mayor for the poor, has left the Colombian capital a wreck. But he's on the way in favor of a newly elected leader voters hope will put the city back on track.

Chao, Gustavo Petro
Chao, Gustavo Petro
Aura Lucía Mera


BOGOTÁ â€" Without a tear it seems, Bogotá is bidding farewell to its passionate, and combative, socialist Mayor Gustavo Petro. I think our city's residents are applauding the Oct. 25 electoral defeat of his political backers, Democratic Pole, which lost its bearings a while back, and the Progressives, who have managed to impose chaos on the Colombian capital.

I feel a little sorry for their mayoral candidate Clara López Obregón, an intelligent woman, bold and well prepared, who nevertheless failed to notice the massive corruption surrounding public contracts in the last city government, during which she was government secretary.

Petro is something else. He was an excellent senator and had the guts to uncover some rotten apples â€" even political horrors here and there â€" but as mayor of Bogotá, he has been a veritable disaster. He devoted the biggest chunk of his time to fighting and defending himself, to constantly reshuffling his cabinet and indulging in cheap populism, while the capital's problems such as traffic, planning, health care and the environment were spinning out of control.

Traffic in Bogota â€" Photo: Edgar Jiménez

He has left everyone with a bitter taste in their mouths. His pride, social resentments, pathological inability to criticize himself or reconsider his conduct, stubbornness and failure to intelligently resolve situations eventually robbed him of standing and authority. You might say Petro has become persona non grata in Bogotá.

In these elections, the Left has paid for the excesses of all its governments so far. The late, great socialist thinker and jurist Carlos Gaviria, who later became a Colombia senator, regrettably had to witness in Petro's government the demise of his progressive programs. A motley crew of intransigent fools, populists, crooks and carpetbaggers threw away the opportunity for opening a new ideological space in this country.

Let me congratulate Mayor-elect Enrique Peñalosa, who served before as mayor, from 1998 to 2001. Bogotá finally realized it needed him at the helm again, though unfortunately, only when its residents realized it was a sinking ship. They wasted years allowing themselves to be seduced by the hypnotic singing of sirens with an agenda.

Mayor-elect Enrique Peñalosa â€" Photo: Dodo

I congratulate but do not envy Peñalosa. He will take over a city eaten away by despair, choking traffic, rage and impotence. Had he been mayor four or eight years ago, it would be a different story. He left a city full of progress and innovations, and has now returned to find that his home has fallen years behind.

The government's candidate, Rafael Pardo, would also have been a good mayor, someone who is serious, honest and sensible. Had he formed a single front with Peñalosa, the populist Left's defeat would have turned into an upset.

Let's hope the Left can one day get its act together. It hasn't so far, and how could it when its egos are bigger than its ideas?

For now, as that children's song goes, "In A While, Crocodile."

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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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