BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s capital has a new problem: the growing number of “underground” parties in improvised nightclubs and bars – a sector that is thriving in utter illegality.
In the past two months, authorities have closed down 15 so-called mega-parties, where alcohol was being sold without a license and which operated without a city permit. That’s an average of two closures per weekend. The phenomenon has also been spreading to other major Argentinian cities.
Inspectors from the Alcoholic Beverage Registry (REBA) of the Buenos Aires Ministry of Health placed closed down underground venues where more than 4,000 young people – many of them underage – where partying.
More than 1,000 were at the Aerofest party organized at the Longchamps (north of Buenos Aires) aerodrome.
Around 4,500 people were at the Project X party in Pilar, another Buenos Aires suburb. The cover charge was 300 pesos ($60) and they were selling alcohol to minors.
What are the logistics of this phenomenon? The key is social networking – invitations are sent out online (mostly through Facebook). The people in charge of organizing the mega-parties are young people, who are familiar with the party scene, know who the good DJs are, where to buy the alcohol, and in some cases, they even handle the hiring of security staff – bouncers.
The most sophisticated underground parties use PR firms that give them access to a mailing list of partygoers, guaranteeing massive attendance so that the event is a success.
Hostels, campsites, clubs
According to Antonio Papasidero, the president of the Provincial Hotels Gastronomy and Tourism Business Association, the Buenos Aires neighborhoods where mega-parties are most often held are Pilar, Tortuguitas, Lomas de Zamora, Adrogé, Moreno and Ramos Mejía. The businessman says that the phenomenon has forced local business owners to adapt their strategy in order to compete with the underground venues.
Papsidero says the parties can make on average between 120,000 ($25,000) and 250,000 pesos ($50,000) per night. The venues charge between 80 ($15) and 300 pesos ($60) to get in. “There is a cover charge but inside drinks are sold at very low prices,” says Papasidero.
Local authorities are almost never able to uncover underground parties. They usually only wise up after residents make complaints or report the parties. Last year in the last trimester, the Ministry of Health closed down six parties and confiscated more than 4,850 bottles of alcohol.
“Private parties threaten the health of young people because they have no control or protection,” says Alejandro Collia, the Buenos Aires Minister of Health. The official confirmed that his Ministry was increasing controls in hostels, campsites and clubs.
The high season for underground parties has traditionally been around the end of the year – graduation season. “But now we are noticing an increase during the rest of the year” says Papasidero.
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.
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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