Trump And The World

For Trump and Rubio, 'Fixing' Venezuela Is A Recipe For Votes

The aggressive Republican stance on Venezuela reflects an attempt to seduce Latino voters in Florida.

Senator Marco Rubio speaks about Venezuela at rally in Miami, Florida on Feb. 18, 2019
Senator Marco Rubio speaks about Venezuela at rally in Miami, Florida on Feb. 18, 2019
Alvaro Forero Tascón

BOGOTÁ — Why has an isolationist U.S. president like Donald Trump suddenly become interventionist in Venezuela? The explanation may be, as U.S. Congressman "Tip" O'Neill once said, that "all politics is local." Especially when it is in your backyard.

While campaigning, Trump was dismissive of the Florida Senator and rival candidate Marco Rubio, whom he called Little Marco. He suggested Rubio did no work because he had one of the worst records of attendance at Senate sessions. The contempt was mutual. Rubio referred to Trump's small hands, "and you know what they say about men with small hands."


Trump addresses Venezuelan-Americans in Miami, Florida on Feb. 18 — Photo: The White House.

It may be surprising then, as the New York Times has observed, that Senator Rubio has worked so hard to educate Trump about, and boost his interest in Latin America, practically forging and coordinating from the Senate a foreign policy directed against Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro. This energetic, proactive approach is perhaps explained by Florida's crucial role in assuring any presidential candidate's victory in the U.S. electoral system. It is not only the state that most closely reflects national behavior, but also has the highest number of Electoral College votes among swing states. Above all, it is the state where the "white" vote for Trump is least decisive. Florida's large Hispanic population determined the Republicans' 2-3% advantage over the Democrats in the last elections, so the party is particularly dependent on this sector of voters. And in Florida, where Venezuela has gradually replaced Cuba as the issue of major concern for Hispanic voters, their perception of Trump's ability to overthrow Maduro is a decisive factor in winning the Latino vote.

Latinos would vote for Trump if he can remove Maduro from power.

Rubio knows this and must have explained it to Trump. Presumably, he pointed out that Latinos would vote for Trump in spite of his disdain and prejudices against them, if he can remove Maduro from power. Rubio is effectively going all out with Venezuela because he knows his constituents well. Presumably, his support and that of his constituents depend on ending the complacent policies presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama initially had towards Venezuela.

Recent polls must have been giving Trump wind of this reality. The website Politico cites one indicating that only 40% of Florida voters would back a second Trump term, while 53% oppose his reelection. As the pollster Fernand Amandi told the website, if you were a politician facing such dismal support rates, you would inevitably "spend more time consolidating your base."

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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

— 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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