MOSCOW — Fifty years ago, in May 1968, France was swarmed with such powerful mass protests that the government feared a full-fledged civil war or revolution. This popular unrest became a turning point in the history of modern France, and eventually brought about serious changes in the French state.
Vladislav Inozemtsev, a scholar writing for the Moscow-based RBC Media, looks at parallels between the situation in France in 1968 and today's Russia, finding some lessons that can be drawn from the "Paris spring" to help understand Russia's current prospects:
"The May 1968 events showed that, despite economic prosperity and growing quality of life that sharply contrasted with the hard post-War years, citizens can still rise up against the authorities if they lack personal freedoms and suffer from stagnation in social development. As for Russia in recent years, it is similar to France in the 1960s in the following respect: economic factors and the fact that the population has become richer in comparison with the 1990s can no longer compensate for the degradation of social and political spheres.
The authorities cannot control human minds.
"Secondly, the example of Charles de Gaulle demonstrated that a leader's popularity tends to evaporate if there are no reforms meeting the needs of the times. De Gaulle was the architect of the new French state after World War II just like Vladimir Putin is for today's modern Russian state. After World War II, de Gaulle was one of the most popular figures in France enjoying universal popularity and respect. However, by 1968 it had become clear that France was not responding to people's needs and aspirations, which resulted in a uprising.
"Thirdly, the example of France illustrates that the authorities cannot control human minds and maintain a certain moral order amidst globalization and a widespread access to information. Despite governmental censorship that existed in France in the 1960s, people revolted. So, it is very unwise of the modern Russian regime to try to impose a distorted worldview and so-called traditional values on its people.
"None of this necessarily means that there will be a revolution in the near future in Russia, but the French case certainly should be taken into account in trying to understand our country's current situation and possible scenarios of its future."
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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