Latin American Violence: After Mexico, Brazil Could Be Next

Police in Sao Paulo
Police in Sao Paulo
Clóvis Rossi

SAO PAULO — During my time in the early 1980s as a correspondent for Folha de S. Paulo in Buenos Aires, I covered more demonstrations of the “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” — and then of the “Grandmothers” — than I could count. Brave women, their faces furrowed by time and pain, their heads covered with white scarves, asking for the return of their sons and grandsons who had disappeared under the regime’s repression.

In truth, they had all been killed, but again and again the cries came, “You took them alive, we want them back alive.”

I heard similar shouts in Chile and Uruguay, other countries where the repressive regime’s savagery produced victims on an industrial scale. The dictatorships are gone in these three countries and in the rest of Latin America — with the exception of Cuba — and the cries were gradually replaced by official explanations, and/or by the trial and sentencing of those responsible for the state-sponsored massacres.

So for me it is simply shocking to read that in 2014, in Mexico, the same cry was heard again. “You took them alive, we want them back alive,” shouted parents and friends of the 43 students abducted in September, and missing since then.

The most tragic thing about this story is that instead of "alive," the families of the disappeared students were told this week by the attorney general that they will probably get them back in the form of ashes found in garbage bags in a river.

A sinister pact

Equally tragic is the fact that Brazil seems to be paying little attention to this landmark event for the Mexican democracy — as if Brazil was a haven of safety and there weren’t, here as well as there, a collusion between part of the repressive forces and narcotrafficking.

In a column in El País, Mexican writer and intellectual Enrique Krauze wrote, “Mexico demands a security and judicial system that protects what’s most precious: human life. The unremitting wave of crime not only must be contained, it must be reverted by the legitimate action of the law. Every day that passes, citizens — let down by all the parties, by politicians and politics — sink deeper into despair and hopelessness.”

Writing about Mexico, social scientist Rubén Aguilar Valenzuela on the website Infolatam, might have just as well been referring to Brazil. “In the modern and inclusive Mexico we all desire, the structural weakness of the security and judicial system needs to be overcome. It is an inalienable obligation and a responsibility of the three levels of government as well as society.”

Brazilians must remember the debates of the recent presidential campaign, during which both candidates, Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves, promised to get the federal government involved in an area nowadays left to the states — although they are clearly too incompetent to even contain our own “unremitting wave of crime.”

We must insist that these promises are kept. Otherwise, if things continue on their current path, Brazil risks sinking into the state of affairs we now witness in Mexico. Spanish journalist Anatonio Navalón boiled down the stakes to one sentence: “The sinister pact between political corruption and organized crime is deadly for any country.”

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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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