Geopolitics

For Trump's Senate Trial, A Message From The Myanmar Coup

There was really just one element missing for a successful American putsch.

Heavily armed police Tuesday in Mandalay, Myanmar.
Heavily armed police Tuesday in Mandalay, Myanmar.
Roy Greenburgh

Rewind three months and two days. It's November 8, 2020, and the front pages of virtually every newspaper in the world announce Joe Biden's victory in the U.S. presidential election, settled after several tense days of vote-counting — and in spite of Donald Trump's continued refusal to concede defeat.

There's a straight line from those headlines to the Jan. 6 assault in Washington on the Capitol, as Trump spent the next two months spreading lies and rage in an unprecedented attempt in American history to subvert the results of a national election.

Going back to November 8, there was also important news unfolding more than 8,000 miles away, as a much younger democracy was going to the polls that day in their own much anticipated election. The voters of Myanmar would wind up overwhelmingly choosing the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, defeating politicians more closely linked to the military that had brutally ruled over the Southeast Asian nation for decades.

It wouldn't be long before the Myanmar military began spreading its own campaign of lies and misinformation about would-be election fraud that, much like Trump's, are hard to disprove simply because they are fabricated from thin air.

The story lines of these two very different countries are crossing again. Last week, Suu Kyi was arrested, along with President Win Myint and dozens of other politicians, as the military took over in a swift coup d"état that ended a fleeting eight-year flirt with democracy.

"The UEC election commission failed to solve huge voter list irregularities in the multi-party general election which was held on 8 November 2020," declared Myint Swe, a former general and vice president handpicked by the military to stand in as president.

Back at the U.S. Capitol, meanwhile, the Senate trial of the now twice-impeached Trump is again putting on display the deepening fault lines of what Americans like to proudly call "the world's oldest democracy." There was the question Tuesday about whether Trump, now out of office, can constitutionally be impeached. There are questions to come about whether his words actually amount to incitement and insurrection.

They will say a functioning democracy must take into account Trump's popularity.

With at least 17 fellow Republicans Senators needed to join the 50 Democrats, Trump will most likely not be convicted — and will remain a major presence in U.S. politics.

Republicans will say that a functioning democracy must leave ample space for free speech. They will say that a functioning democracy, and their own party, must take into account Trump's popularity with voters. And yet just a glance across the world at Myanmar is a timely reminder of what now seems clear: If Trump had the military on his side, he would still be sitting in the White House today — taking the world's oldest democracy down with him.

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Green

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

Xinhua/ZUMA

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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