Why Forbes Magazine Is Awed By A Mexican Drug Kingpin

Among only five Latin Americans on Forbes Magazine's presitigious annual index of the most powerful is El Chapo, a legendary Mexican drug kingpin poisoning the entire region.

One of the few pictures of "El Chapo"
One of the few pictures of "El Chapo"
Marcelo A. Moreno

BUENOS AIRES — He is 56 years old and stands at just 5-foot-6, with a fortune estimated at $1.5 billion. He’s a family man of sorts — having married three times and sired nine children — who, like most Mexican Catholics, is devoted to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

His name is Joaquin "Shorty” Guzmán, though he's known more commonly as El Chapo, and he is a legendary global drug trafficker. This son of a poor peasant father who beat him regularly, El Chapo is, according to Mexican and U.S. authorities, responsible for 1,500 deaths. He is also one of five Latin Americans on Forbes magazine’s exclusive list of the World’s Most Powerful People.

The Latin American best positioned on that list is Pope Francis, the only Argentine there, who is No. 4, after Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping, the current leader of China. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is No. 20, while three Mexicans complete Latin America’s presence: multimillionaire Carlos Slim and his family (No. 12), President Enrique Peña Nieto (No. 37), and finally, Guzmán (No. 67).

Guzmán has the honor of featuring among the world’s top leaders, financiers and captains of industry by virtue of leading the Sinaloa Cartel — a decidedly non-philanthropic organization Forbes says imports 25% of all the drugs entering the United States. That has made him, since the death of Osama bin Laden, the man most wanted by U.S. security agencies, which are offering a $7 million reward for his capture.

The cartel’s sophisticated work consists of moving drugs from production centers in South America to the United States, after crossing Central America and the 17 Mexican states in which it operates. Not that it is all a bed of roses for Guzmán and his associates: He has allied organizations but also powerful competitors and enemies such as the Zetas Cartel. Differences between them are resolved not with verbal courtesies, but with machine guns and beheadings, among a range of other imaginative and less-than-delicate methods.

In the crossfire

Some youthful residents of the impoverished Villa La Cárcova sector of José León Suárez, north of Buenos Aires, recently burned and smashed part of the local police station. They broke all the windows, ripped out doors and painted slogans on the walls that could hardly be described as praising the police and their work. They also set fire to a police vehicle, 10 private cars and 90 motorbikes being stored in a shed. The forces of law and order, meanwhile, remained holed up in the building, waiting for the arrival of Buenos Aires provincial police, who finally dispersed the protesters.

It was the murder of a 13-year-old boy that incited this anger. Police said he had been caught in the middle of a fight between drug gangs, but his father said a drug dealer had fired shots in a place “full of traffickers” amid police who did nothing. The rioters chanted, “The traffickers are all with the police.”

After this explosion of public rage, reports emerged that three other boys had died this year in the drug war, all near Villa La Cárcova, and there were suspicions that traffickers had even set up a settlement right next door, called Ciudad de Dios.

Of course, none of this is exceptional in a country where traffickers once riddled a governor’s house with bullets, an incident in which senior policemen were detained on suspicion of conniving with the criminals.

As revealed in a recent UN Office on Drugs and Crime report, Argentina is Latin America’s top cocaine consumer, and No. 2 globally, behind the United States. In fact, the Sinaloa Cartel has been able to expand its operations to new zones such as Central and South America — as far as Peru, Paraguay and Argentina.

Argentina lacks a comprehensive national plan to fight drugs, either in a preventive or punitive capacity. And the state anti-drug agency SEDRONAR has been without a head since March. This notable inaction represents not only the Argentine government’s prolonged negligence but also collusion with El Chapo, his friends and competitors.

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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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