Colombia Wants To Defend Its Troops Against War Crimes Charges

Colombian special forces troops in training
Colombian special forces troops in training
El Espectador
BOGOTA — As negotiations continue to try to bring a definitive end to Colombia's decades-long civil war, another thorny issue related to the country's violent past won't go away: the fate of soldiers accused of crimes.
The government's proposal for a specific military justice code to handle such cases was recently rejected by the Colombian Supreme Court. In response, the Defense Ministry has just announced a proposal for a so-called Plan B — a request to Congress to approve a "Technical and Specialized Defense Fund" for use in domestic and international trials, to provide legal protection for those accused.
The Ministry is concerned that accused troops risked being left in a “legal limbo” should they be taken to court for alleged rights violations committed in the battle against Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas or criminal gangs.

At home and abroad
Among the cases in question are investigations at the International Court at The Hague into the Army’s 1985 assault on Colombia's Supreme Court of Justice to clear out rebels, and the 2008 bombing of a FARC camp inside Ecuador. One hundred people died in the first incident and civilians "disappeared," while the second killed 22 guerrillas and provoked Ecuador's fury.
Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón said that “in practice the aim of the Technical Defense Fund is that with the fall of the proposed amplification of the military justice code, there should be enough money to assure an effective defense.”
The fund proposal, he said, “allows the creation of a technical defence system and defence fund to be financed from the national budget, the defense budget and donations.”
He said it could not be used in cases relating to “private incidents, acts of corruption and those unrelated to operational activities of the Public Force,” responding to a question on the delicate case known as “false positives.” This case revolves around allegations that certain officers or troops had youngsters kidnapped, killed, and later “identified” as FARC fighters killed in combat.
Interior Minister Aurelio Iragorri Valencia told critics in turn, “make no mistake, we shall not abandon our military and police forces. If we have to present a hundred projects to defend them, we will."
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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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