Geopolitics

Latin America Deserves World Cup For Conspiracy Theories

Colombian soccer fans after their team's July 3 defeat
Colombian soccer fans after their team's July 3 defeat
Benjamin Witte

-Analysis-

Many of the Colombian players broke down in tears after coming up just short in last night's World Cup match against England. Still, they can hold their heads high, and not just because of the valiant effort they put forth. The "truth" of the matter is they got robbed — at least according to Diego Maradona.

"Today I saw a monumental theft," the Argentine soccer legend said during an appearance on the Venezuela-based television network teleSUR. Who then was the culprit of this egregious crime? The referee, of course. Mark Geiger. From the United States.

Maradona isn't the only outspoken Latin American with a soft spot for conspiracy theories. Former Ecuadorian leader Rafael Correa (2007-2017) has been hammering on for years about a far-reaching rightist scheme to restore conservative leadership in the region. And on Tuesday, after a judge ordered the ex-president's arrest in connection with the 2012 kidnapping of a political opponent, Correa again denounced a supposed "complot" against him, the Argentine daily Clarín reports.

Further north, in tiny Nicaragua, the regime of President Daniel Ortega also likes to blame its woes on hidden, outside forces. And it is currently using said conspiracy to justify the more than 200 killings that have occurred — at the hands of police and pro-government paramilitaries — since protests against Ortega began nearly two months ago.

Accusing America of creating Venezuela's crisis is about as fair as accusing O.J. Simpson of murdering Princess Diana.

In some cases people point the finger directly. Other times it's just implied. But either way, the common thread in most of these scenarios (including last night's "monumental theft" in the World Cup) is the United States — the imperio ("empire"), as Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro and others in the Latin America left like to call it.

From the overthrow of Guatemala's Jacobo Árbenz, in 1954, to the 1990 invasion of Panama, the U.S. has a well-earned reputation for intervention in Latin America — be it through brute force or cloak-and-dagger scheming. Needless to say, that image isn't improving any under President Donald Trump, with his Mexico bashing and mass jailing of migrants.

Even so, whether on the soccer pitch or in the halls of power, there's a difference between truth and fiction. As difficult as Ortega may find it to believe, the Nicaraguan people don't need clandestine CIA infiltrators to spark unrest after a decade of blatant, anti-democratic leadership. The same goes for Venezuela, as comedian John Oliver quipped in a recent segment of his show Last Week Tonight.

"Accusing America of creating Venezuela's crisis is about as fair as accusing O.J. Simpson of murdering Princess Diana," Oliver said. "I'm not saying it would be completely out of character. It just happens to not be true in this particular instance."

All jokes aside, dismissing every negative outcome as the result of a grand conspiracy is a reflex Correa, Ortega and others ought to put to rest. Doing so is intentionally deceitful. And it won't resolve the very real problems their countries face, any more than Maradona's accusations will stamp Colombia's ticket to the next round of the World Cup.

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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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