What Mexico Can Learn From Trump's Desperate Last Stand

Mexico's current leader, and loud-and-proud leftist, has more in common with the outgoing U.S. president, a conservative Republican, than many people realize.

 Trump and Lopez Obrador at the White House in July 2020
Trump and Lopez Obrador at the White House in July 2020
Luis Rubio


MEXICO CITY — Conflict is essential to politics, and politics, in turn, provide a means for facing, administering and processing that conflict. Societies thus differ fundamentally not in whether they have conflicts, but in how they resolve them.

Days ago, Washington DC became a singular window showing both sides: conflict explosion, and its resolution. As the pressman John Kampfner observes, a country's measure is not in the "difficulties it faces, but how it surmounts them."

So how, then, do we Mexicans fare on that front?

First, a bit about Donald Trump, who was never a normal president. Even before his election he was challenging institutions and the traditional way of doing things. More recently, he simply refused to accept the results of the November presidential elections, and mobilized his followers to forcibly change them. He then incited them to take over Congress, the grandly named "chapel of democracy."

He thus broke with the essence of democratic politics, based on the principle of players accepting the rules of the game. Like our own President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Trump only accepts rules that work in his favor. Yet the chaos his attitude provoked lasted just hours. The morning after the melee in Congress, the Democrat Joe Biden was formally declared president-elect of the United States, and much of the press and other outlets, including those sympathizing with Trump, urged him to resign.

Trump only accepts rules that work in his favor.

Like a Third World strongman who values personal loyalty above all else, Trump must have imagined his party, and the people he had promoted and backed for various positions, would come to his aid. But the most notable aspect of recent events — and an emphatically normal one in any country of solid institutions — was the way conflict was processed to the point of resolution. The list of those gradually neutralizing an array of challenges to the elections is more than revealing, and in the end, it was the Republicans who ended Trump's deluded dreams and malevolent tactics.

It was mostly judges named by Trump who rejected his legal moves to cancel voting results, state by state. Those he had named to the Supreme Court (in whom he was presumably pinning his hopes for protection), rejected his calls for help. The Republican governor of Georgia, whose reelection Trump backed, refused to bow to presidential pressure. The Republican Senate majority leader McConnell refused to maneuver to block Biden's confirmation. Tom Cotton, a veteran Trump supporter (and senator), openly denounced his conduct, suggesting he wouldn't intimidate Republicans quite as much as people imagine, once out of office. And finally, it was Vice-President Mike Pence, perhaps the most docile of his supporters, who struck the last nail in Trump's coffin by sticking to constitutional norms. Police and National guardsmen duly did their duty and ended a clumsy bid to grab the legislature, ensuring the legislative process could resume.

In Mexico the campaigning period for the lower legislature is about to begin — Photo: El Universal via ZUMA Wire

In spite of a bitter campaign, the institutions of the United States triumphed in the last elections, as did all the actors who responsibly followed the rules of a functioning democracy. Trump's tantrums served only to alienate voters.

What a contrast with Mexico. For at least six years, from 2006 to 2012, López Obrador paralyzed Mexican politics and prevented his former party, the leftist PRD, from participating in legislative debates. Today, it seems his only mission is to remove anything that may obstruct his quest for power, even if in doing so, he impoverishes the population and especially hurts the already poor who voted him into office. His collaborators have acted as loyal servitors, before and after his election, never giving priority to institutions or values that serve the country's development.

We are about to begin the campaigning period for the lower legislature, 15 state governorships and hundreds of district and local councils. The president has shown complete indifference to the rules of the game, most of which already seemed crafted to fit his needs. He wants to win in spite of them, whatever the cost, be it basic civility, democracy or even the country itself. He reminds me one of the late Chinese foreign minister Chou En-lai who quipped, "It's chaos everywhere: the situation is excellent."

First provoke the chaos, then milk it for what it's worth. Unfortunately, unlike our northern neighbors, there are no institutions here to resist him nor enough officials to give them added weight. López Obrador has Mexico on tenterhooks. Trump tried the same, but the institutions thwarted him. Not so here, and that, sadly, is what makes all the difference.

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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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