Venezuela's Chilling 'Self-Coup'

President Maduro, alone at the helm
President Maduro, alone at the helm


You don't need to be an army general marching in with troops to mount a coup in a country. Sometimes democracy can be crushed by the very person elected at its helm — the president.

In Venezuela, analysts and opposition leaders are describing this phenomenon as a "self-coup," after President Nicolás Maduro ordered the Supreme Court to usurp the legislature's prerogatives. A ruling by the court on Wednesday night essentially dissolved the elected legislature, which is led by Maduro's opponents.

Latin American and Spanish analysts have, rightly, underscored the gravity of the situation. In an article today in the conservative Argentinian dailyClarín, commentator Ricardo Kirshbaum writes that Venezuela has now "fully entered classic totalitarianism" and that Maduro has embarked "on an adventure" with little support from Venezuelans. Mariano Turzi, writing in the same newspaper, called the situation a "Vexit". He noted that the socialist regime's promises of a utopian country were increasingly a "distant dream and a present nightmare," adding that the movement founded by former leftist president Hugo Chávez had failed terribly.

Venezuela is the furthest it's been from democracy since Maduro became president.

In an editorial that point-blank called the move in Venezuela a "coup",Spain's El País accused Maduro of trying to sabotage talks and torpedo an agreement with the opposition. The country's more conservative El Mundo newspaper took a jab at the leftist Podemos party in Spain, which has openly sympathized with the Venezuelan regime, observing that "last night, Caracas woke up with the parliament Podemos dreams of here — none."

Mexico's El Universal suggested that it was time Venezuela's Latin American neighbors "initiated diplomatic pressures' to restore "democratic normality" in the besieged country. In another Mexican paper, Excelsior, one observer, Yuriria Sierra, wrote that Maduro's power play was just the type of absurdity that could be expected from the "Chavismo" legacy. Peru, which has condemned Maduro's moves, has recalled its ambassador from Caracas. Peruvian newspaper El Comercio reflected this as much in its Friday front page.

It's clear that at this moment Venezuela is the furthest it's been from democracy since Maduro became president. The economic collapse of Venezuela is so horrific that people are starving and even giving away their children. This latest political crisis shows just how far Venezuela is from recovering from this misery.

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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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