Watching from abroad as Brazil's anti-corruption probe rumbles into its fourth year, you can't help but think: "Well, I guess they're all corrupt..." "How could it get any worse?" No doubt, many Brazilians are thinking the same. The latest episode in this seemingly unending series of accusations and counter-accusations, rising and falling political fortunes, is President Michel Temer being charged with corruption late yesterday.
Temer now formally accused of accepting bribes that, in total, could amount to 38 million reais ($11.5 million). Temer, 76, denies the charges — just as his predecessor Dilma Rousseff did before being impeached last year over accusations of illegally manipulating the budget to boost her chances of being reelected.
Temer's legitimacy appears as slim as his chances of winning an election.
In the meantime, Brazil's political quagmire deepens further, and faith in the democratic process fades. The noose has been tightening around Temer ever since he took over the presidency without a popular vote. His successive governments have been marred by scandals related to the anti-corruption operation Car Wash ("Lava Jato") with several ministers forced to resign. Still, it looks as if Temer has enough support in the lower house of parliament to block a two-third majority vote on whether he should be tried and, potentially, impeached. For now.
As the judicial and executive branches square off again, Brazilian democracy may only find its footing again by returning to hear what the people say. The opposition didn't miss the opportunity to call for early elections as soon as the allegations against Temer first surfaced several weeks ago. With an approval rating of just 7% (the lowest in three decades) according to a poll published last week, Temer's legitimacy appears as slim as his chances of winning an election.
The same can't be said of former President Lula, even though he too is accused of corruption. He is leading current polls for the presidential election planned for next year with 30%. But in a warning that sounds like a threat, one leader of Lula's Workers' Party said yesterday that should the ex-president be sentenced by the judge, there would be "no more democratic compromise" and "open fighting in the streets." Yes, after all, it could get worse.
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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