SANTIAGO - The month of April brought some very good news for supporters of gay marriage, and one piece of bad news.
The best news in Latin America came from Uruguay, where the Chamber of Deputies gave same-sex couples the right to marry by the overwhelming majority of 71 to 21, topped off by a momentous speech by Uruguayan President Jose Mujica. The law has since been approved by the Senate, and should enter into force any minute.
Two days after the success in Uruguay, the same thing happened in New Zealand, where the parliament approved gay marriage legislation 77 to 44, making it it the first country in Asia to approve marital equality.
The bad news came from Colombia, where a law legalizing gay marriage was voted down in the senate 51 to 15 after being approved in committee in December. Supporters have one last recourse: appealing to the Constitutional Court.
The latest word on gay marriage has come from the famously civilized country of France, where the legalization of gay marriage was supposed to be just a formality but ended up turning into a war. Since 58 percent of French citizens have said they are in favor of gay marriage, observers in France and elsewhere were surprised at the virulence of the debate. There were attacks on gay couples on the streets of Paris and other cities, and an arson attack at a gay bar in the northern city of Lille. Around 350,000 people marched in the streets of Paris against gay marriage just a few days before the National Assembly approved the law permitting same-sex couples to marry and adopt children by 329 to 229 votes.
With or without heated debates, the wave is bound to continue. There are only 14 countries worldwide where gay marriage is currently legal, but there are concrete plans in the works to legalize it in many more.
In Latin America, only two countries sanction gay marriage -- Argentina and Uruguay -- but change is brewing throughout the region. Brazil is one of several countries preparing to join the group of countries with the most extensive package of LGBT rights. In 2011, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that homosexuals have the right to marry, and last year the Senate’s Commission on Human Rights approved a national civil marriage law that should be passed by the full Senate and Congress this year. At the same time, judges in seven Brazilian states have given a green light to civil marriages for same-sex couples.
In Mexico, the Constitutional Court has approved the constitutionality of gay marriage on a national level, and same-sex couples can already marry in Mexico City and three Mexican states.
In Chile, the Senate is about to approve a civil union law, which would give gay partners the same financial rights as a married couple, though it would fall short of marriage equality. Supporters of gay marriage in Chile will have to wait for the next legislative session to make their case.
There might not be another issue that is so marked by generational divide. In the United States, where gay marriage is legal in Washington DC and eight states, until recently the majority of the population was against gay marriage. But as younger generations are included in surveys, the results change, and now a majority is in favor of marriage equality.
To be in favor of gay marriage is to be on the right side of history. But we support gay marriage for reasons more important than statistical convenience.
América Economía supports gay marriage because the magazine supports freedom. We are in favor of the freedom to start a business, the freedom to make economic choices, and in favor of all individual and public freedoms if they do not harm society. And we do not see how a marriage between two people will harm society.
We also believe in equal opportunity and equal rights for all. And we understand that equal rights can not truly exist in a society if some people are not treated the same way as others.
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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