It's a striking contrast in both age and public exposure. Defying a sometimes repressive police force, a bold youth-led Algerian street protest movement has risen up against the North African country's aging and largely invisible leader.
Tens of thousands demonstrated over the past couple of weeks against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to seek a fifth term, despite years of poor health and lack of public accountability.
In addition to concern that 81-year-old's multiple health problems render him unable to properly lead, many believe that he has significantly abused his power throughout his 20-year reign. Perhaps most disturbing is that Bouteflika has not made an official public appearance since a 2013 stroke.
The president must go.
A college student named Wassim, who attended recent protests in the country's capital Algiers, told El-Watan that it is time for Bouteflika to retire: "I was born in 1999. I opened my eyes to the portrait of Bouteflika and he is still here," he said. "And it's been six years since we've seen him. It is unacceptable."
In a country where over a quarter of people under the age of 30 are unemployed, young citizens are bound to blame their lack of prospects on those in charge. That is multiplied when the leader is by almost all accounts incapacitated by age and illness.
Bouteflika poster in Algeria — Photo: Maya-Anaïs Yataghène
Wassim considers himself a part of the Mouwatana (Democracy and Citizenship) movement, the opposition group behind the protests. Their members are as young as 16, and unlike most political organizations, they do not back a specific candidate. One of the leaders of the movement, Soufiane Dijali, told the Guardian that the Mouwatana strives to do more than just dethrone Bouteflika: It wants to create a whole new democratic system.
"The president must go, the government must resign, and the fake national assembly — all of these need to be dismantled," Dijali said.
Le Point Afrique reports that in a speech on Monday addressing the protests, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia directly addressed the protesters' doubts about whether the April 18 elections will be fair: "Everyone has the right to support or oppose … But things will be decided in the ballot box."
Having largely avoided the unrest of the Arab Spring earlier this decade, Algeria is now facing a delicate moment where civic protests can prompt government crackdowns, and even all-out civil war — with young leaders of the movement were trying to avoid confrontation by concentrating protesting on college campuses, Le Monde says. Security guards, however, retaliated by trying to block the gate.
Another protester, a third-year biology student named Khaled, told El Watan that the group made sure to avoid clashes with forces by keeping each other in line. "Our people have shown a high level of maturity. When someone was about to throw a stone, we would stop them before the police saw."
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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