Geopolitics

Backlash From Teddy Bear Incident: Belarus Recalls Diplomats From Sweden, Asks Swedes To Leave

REUTERS, THE LOCAL (Sweden)

Worldcrunch

Belarus announced on Wednesday it was pulling all of its remaining embassy staff from Sweden and gave Swedish authorities until August 30 to withdraw their own diplomats from Minsk. The move worsened a disupte about a pro-democracy teddy bear drop over Belarussian territory in July that embarassed authorities and further strained relations with the European Union.

Reuters reports that Belarus had already expelled Swedish ambassador Stefan Eriksson on August 3 after the teddy bear incident, in which a Swedish public relations firm parachuted 800 toy bears into the country with messages urging authorities to respect human rights.

In retaliation for Eriksson's expulsion, two Belarussian diplomats were expelled and a new ambassador to Sweden was refused entry after the previous one left his post several weeks before, according to the Local. The Belarussian foreign ministry accused Sweden of worsening the dispute with these decisions, which prompted Wednesday's announcement.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. His harsh policies towards the opposition have strained relations with the West and the European Union, according to Reuters.

Swedish Foreign Minister reacted to Wednesday's announcement on Twitter.

Lukashenko is now throwing all Swedish diplomats out of Belarus. His fear of human rights reaching new heights.

— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) August 8, 2012

We remain strongly committed to the freedom of Belarus and all its citizens. They deserve the freedoms and the rights of the rest of Europe.

— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) August 8, 2012

Last week Stefan Eriksson was expelled for meeting with Belarussian opposition groups, according to the Local.

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Green

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

Xinhua/ZUMA

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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