KOMMERSANT (Russia) KREMLIN NEWS (Russia) GAZETA.RU (Russia) NEWSRU (Russia)
SMOLENSK - A young mother and political activist, Taisiya Osipova was lucky enough that her case caught the attention of then Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, who came to her defense in January. But so far, at least, that has counted for little.
Earlier this week, just days after her 28th birthday, Osipova was sentenced to eight years in prison for drug possession, Moscow daily Kommersant reports.
Prosecutors say that five packages containing heroin were found in her apartment in a raid in November 2010, Gazeta.ru reported. Osipova was arrested on the spot. She maintains that the packages were planted by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency because of her links to Russia's rising opposition.
This is not the first time Osipova was arrested. She was a member of the National Bolshevik party, and a correspondent for the party’s newspaper. In 2003, she was arrested and sentenced to one year in jail after she hit a local official in the face with a bunch of carnations, NEWSRU reported. But in 2008, she more or less retreated from political activism to focus on raising her daughter, who was born in 2006. Her husband, however, continued to play an active role the party Another Russia.
In December 2011, Osipova was sentenced to 10 years in prison, all the while fiercely denying what she said was a bogus case. In January, then-President Medvedev told students at the Journalism School at Moscow State University that he considered 10 years in prison to be an excessive punishment in response to student questions about the case, Kremlin News reported. The case was retried, and prosecutors asked for only 4 years behind bars.
During the second trial, the prosecution’s key witness, who had described how the packets of heroin were discovered at Osipova’s residence, changed his story. He said that his previous testimony had been false, and that in fact the Federal Drug Agency had planted the drugs.
This second version of events was confirmed when the witness took a lie detector test, Kommersant reported. But the court decided to exclude everything related to the search, leaving only two alleged incidents where Osipova was accused of trying to buy heroin in sting operations.
According to Osipova’s husband, political activist Sergei Fomchenkov, both cases were completely fabricated, Kommersant reported. In the first case, none of the witnesses were able to confirm that Osipova had been present, and in the second case, the prosecution presented a secret witness. Fomchenkov says that a friend of Osipova admitted that she was forced to slander her in court. The friend, he said, has now disappeared.
Although the court is not bound by prosecutorial sentencing suggestions, a sentence twice as long as the sentence sought by prosecutors is very rare, Kommersant notes.
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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