LATIN AMERICA: Narco Kingpin Arrested In Shooting Of Soccer Star Salvador Cabañas

LATIN AMERICA: Narco Kingpin Arrested In Shooting Of Soccer Star Salvador Cabañas

A suspected Mexican drug trafficker is charged with last year's barroom shooting of Cabañas, one of Latin American soccer's top strikers.

Mexican police (Scazon)


When soccer star was shot in the head at a Mexico City nightclub last year, it seemed the whole of Latin America gasped in collective horror. The Paraguayan-born striker was the leading goal-scorer at both the 2007 and 2008 Copa Libertadores continental club tournament, as well as the Mexican league's top scorer for 2006. Cabañas, who was playing for Mexico City team Club América at the time he was shot, has made a remarkable recovery, though it is still unclear whether he will ever play again.

Mexico's amateur crime sleuths as well as professional investigators have speculated what provoked a suspected drug trafficker to shoot the 30-year-old at point-blank range in the barroom bathroom.

But this week investigators seem to be getting some answers. Mexican police announced the arrest of José Jorge Balderas Garza, a suspected drug trafficker better known as J.J. who was at the club Bar-Bar on the morning of January 25, 2010 when Cabañas was shot.

Balderas, who was captured along with his Colombian beauty queen girlfriend, had been wanted for his alleged ties to a notorious US-born drug kingpin, Édgar "La Barbie" Váldez Villarreal, arrested last August.

The El Universal daily of Mexico City reported that Balderas' bodyguard has testified that just before the shooting occurred, his boss and the soccer star got into an argument at the Bar-Bar over a recent Club América match. According to the testimony, Balderas stopped him on the way to the bathroom and questioned him about the goals he didn't score in the game in question.

But in a television interview with the Mexican Televisa network, carried on news websites this week across Latin America, Balderas maintains that his bodyguard shot Cabañas in a drunken rage.

El Universal reports that the 30-year-old Cabañas, who is back in Paraguay slowly recovering from his gunshot wound to the head, can't remember what happened that night and is not expected to return to Mexico to testify.

The shooting is just one of many piling up in Mexico's bloody narco war, which has claimed more than 30,000 lives since President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006 and called out the army to battle the drug cartels. Sometimes it takes a football phenomenon to put a face on senseless violence.

Martin Delfín


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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

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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