Bolsonaro To Boris: When Demagogues Take Over

Boris Johnson's decision to temporarily suspend Parliament marks his choice to play the people against the elected representatives. Italy, the U.S., Brazil and elsewhere, have seen similar ploys.

U.S. President Donald Trump meeting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during G7 Summit in Biarritz, France
U.S. President Donald Trump meeting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during G7 Summit in Biarritz, France
Dominique Seux

It's now been 300 days since Jair Bolsonaro took command of Brazil, 500 days since Matteo Salvini scored big in the Italian legislative elections, nearly 1,000 days since Donald Trump entered the White House and 1,100 days since the British voted for Brexit. What do we see each time? A long examination is not necessary to conclude that they are not good. In recent years, populists have clearly found the words to conquer power. They are quick to show their limits once they exercise it.

Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Westminster for five weeks to give himself a free hand on managing London's exit from the European Union at the end of October is, simply put, a denial of democracy. Certainly, it is possible that some of the public may agree with him: MPs have been unable to move forward for the past two years, they can say. Certainly, it's clever. It is above all the Prime Minister's choice, to play the people against their elected representatives. In the country where parliamentarianism was born, this is a strange signal.

On the other side of the Alps, the blasting of the ruling coalition by the League's boss plunged Italy into a deep political crisis. The unexpected outcome could be a government without Matteo Salvini, who would suffer a bitter failure. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro's personal behavior and decisions spark outrage around the world, while the trade war unleashed by Donald Trump weighs on the global economy without benefiting the United States.

It doesn't take much to make Trump seem reasonable.

Each time, there is an attraction toward something new for voters dissatisfied with their situation, toward he who speaks out loud and clear. This is how the demagogues arrive. But quickly, the principle of reality returns to its rightful place, promises are shattered, higher stakes are revealed: peace in Northern Ireland, economic stability in Italy, a complicated balance of power between Washington and Beijing. Suddenly, everything is more complicated again.

The concern about this landscape is twofold. Our expectations of values are changing, as we gradually get used to raging tweets, abracadabra decisions and even just plain insults. It was enough for the American President to soften up a bit this past weekend at the G7 in Biarritz to suddenly appear more reasonable... than others! Secondly, sound-minded democrats are still struggling to find the right solutions to contemporary problems, including the anger of the working classes. Until such solutions are offered, demagogues will have the wind in their sails.

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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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