Tag Archives: Latin America

Dominican Republic: Ministry of Education to promotes a culture of peace and guarantes security in schools


An article from Noticias Sin (translation by CPNN)

In order to foster a culture of peace and a better emotional environment that facilitates the teaching-learning process, the Ministry of Education has ordered the implementation of a comprehensive national program of accompaniment and psychological guidance through the Directorate of School Police, directed to students, teachers, educational technicians and administrative staff of public educational centers

“We need our students to have the opportunity to take full advantage of the efforts made by the Educational Revolution of President Danilo Medina, with an unprecedented investment in the different edges that make up a good education, with better trained teachers and modern infrastructure, and that is only possible in a total environment of peace, tranquility and security, “said Peña Mirabal to instruct the plan to the School Police, said Antonio Peña Mirabal.

The official called the families represented in the associations of parents, mothers and friends of the school (APMAE), as well as the other entities that work on education, to join this great purpose of improving the environment of schools.

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(Click here for the original Spanish version of this article.)

Question for this article:

Where is peace education taking place?

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After receiving instructions, the director of the School Police, Colonel Giovanni de Jesus Gil Suarez, immediately launched the peace plan, with simultaneous meetings held in different public schools in the provinces of Duarte and Valverde, belonging to the Northeast regions and Northwest of the country, where expert security officers and a team of experienced psychologists exchanged impressions with students, teachers and administrative staff about the realities that are experienced in the schools.

Likewise, actions were coordinated and agreed upon with the directors, the teaching staff and with the different leaderships of the educational communities, in order to achieve, in the shortest possible time, a peaceful coexistence among all the actors involved in teaching.

The first schools played by the program were the Educational Center Juan de Jesus Reyes Aranda, in the municipality of Mao, Valverde, and the Liceo Américo Lugo, located in San Francisco de Macorís, where the security experts of the School Police, and experienced Behavioral professionals, knew the concerns expressed by students, teachers and other actors, as well as the problems that are most worrisome.

Among the issues addressed are the use of social networks as a valuable tool for the individual and collective development of people, as well as talks on the risks of physical and emotional abuse that are caused through the harmful practice of bullying, in addition to group dynamics oriented towards the need to cultivate values, good customs and respect for legal norms.

Among those participating in the activity are the professors and directors Celidania Rosario, Midalba Ureña, Virgilio Alberto and Apolinar Alejo, of the school district 07-05, as well as the colonels Rafael Encarnación Santos, Juan Francisco Gatón and Diego Pesqueira; the psychologists Miosotis Feliz and Luisa Terrero, and also Colonel Humberto Flores, representing General Boris Goyco Campagna, director of the Northwest Regional located in the city of Mao.

Mexico: Agreemen of municipality of Saltillo with State Attorney General to promote the culture of peace


An article from El Diario de Coahuila (translation by CPNN)

With the objective of promoting the Culture of Peace and in compliance with Article 17 of the Political Constitution and the National Law on Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms in criminal matters, the State Attorney General Dr. Gerardo Márquez Guevara and the Mayor of Saltillo, Ing. Manolo Jiménez Salinas, have signed a collaboration agreement for “Mediation and Pacification”.

The agreement proides that the State Attorney General’s Office, through the General Directorate of Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (MASC), will rake actions to promote the Culture of Peace by disseminating criminal, community and school mediation, as well as training mediation facilitators in the schools.

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(Click here for the Spanish version of this article.)

Questions for this article:

How can culture of peace be developed at the municipal level?

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The State Attorney General, Gerardo Márquez Guevara, states that peace is fundamental to promote and access human rights, security and justice. The Head of the Office of the Prosecutor reiterated his commitment to carry out activities to promote the peaceful resolution of conflicts and promote the transformation of these through dialogue, empathy, cooperation and resilience.

“We must promote peacebuilding processes in the school community as a form of crime prevention, encouraging socializing institutions such as schools, families and communities to identify alternative methods and apply mediation in different areas.”

Márquez Guevara pointed out that through the different programs available to the Office of the Prosecutor, girls and boys are made aware of the importance of resolving conflicts in a peaceful and collaborative manner through dialogue. Saltillo will have peacekeeping agents to maintain peace and security so that Human Rights, access to justice and mechanisms of citizen participation can prevail at all times.

Meanwhile, the Municipal President of Saltillo, Manolo Jiménez Salinas, acknowledged the support that the Attorney General’s Office has given the municipality, said that this alliance is a parallel strategy to keep Saltillo safe, with peace and order.

“Through this agreement with the Office of the Prosecutor, we enter a family of neighbors, strengthening our social fabric and preparing mutual support as mediators, to generate consensus and prevent problems from escalating to the point that they must involve the State Power of Attorney.

Also attended the signing of the agreement were Liliana Salinas de Jiménez, Honorary President of DIF Saltillo; Carlos Robles Loustaunau, Secretary of the City Council; Aiko Miyuki Rendón Carreón, Director of the State Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (MASC), and other public officials.

The Association of Caribbean States advances with the Declaration of Managua


An article by David Comissiong from Barbados Today

The Association of Caribbean States (ACS)—a multilateral organisation that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) conceptualized and helped bring into existence some 25 years ago – concluded its eighth Heads of Government Summit in Managua, Nicaragua on the 29th of March 2019, with the adoption of the historic “Declaration of Managua” and the confirmation of a visionary three-year “Plan of Action”.

The 25 Member States of the ACS – 14 CARICOM nations, along with Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama – sent the world a most remarkable message of hope and commitment to human solidarity with their “Declaration of Managua” affirmations on such critical issues as climate change, respect for the fundamental principles of International Law, the maintenance of the Greater Caribbean as a “Zone of Peace”, and the payment of reparations for the crimes of native genocide and African enslavement.

[Editor’s note: According to Wikipedia there are15 members of CARICOM: Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Republic of Haiti, Montserrat, Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Barbados, Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Jamaica, Republic of Suriname, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.]

It is noteworthy that the delegation heads of such countries as Cuba (President Miguel Diaz-Canel), Nicaragua (President Daniel Ortega), El Salvador (President Salvador Sanchez Ceren), Venezuela (Vice-President Aristobulo Isturiz), Trinidad & Tobago (Minister Dennis Moses), Barbados (Minister Jerome Walcott), Grenada (Minister Peter David), St. Lucia (Minister Sarah Flood-Beaubrun), Suriname (Minister Yldiz Pollack-Beighle), and Guyana (Ambassador Halim Majeed) were able to join together with the delegation heads of such “Lima Group” nations as Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala and Honduras to declare – at paragraph 22 of the Declaration of Managua—that they “reject the application of coercive unilateral measures that are contrary to international law, and that harm the peace and prosperity of the Greater Caribbean”.

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Question for this article:

Can peace be maintained in the Caribbean region?

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Other quite remarkable affirmations contained in the Declaration of Managua are as follows:-

“Agrees to unite efforts to face global climate change with a view to positioning the countries of the Greater Caribbean at the forefront of international efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” (Para.8)

“Recognises the multifaceted and stratified threats that the Greater Caribbean faces… to achieve sustainable development, and the imperative to strengthen coordination and cooperation within the ACS to deal with… the unilateral listing of uncooperative fiscal jurisdictions and the practice by banks in developed countries to engage in risk reduction activities (de-risking) that result in the decline in relations with corresponding banks for the countries of the Greater Caribbean.” (Para. 17)

“Reiterates our commitment and unconditional respect for the goals and principles of the United Nations Charter and the principles of International Law, to maintain international peace and security, the promotion of friendly relations between states, international cooperation in solving problems, the Sovereign Equality of states… the peaceful resolution of disputes, the prohibition of the use or threat of use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state and the non-interference in their domestic affairs, as essential requirements for preserving the Greater Caribbean as a Zone of Peace and cooperation, in accordance with the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.” (Para. 21)

“Supports the 10-point Action Plan of the Reparations Commission of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and applauds this Commission’s efforts to correct injustices resulting from the genocide of the native people of the Caribbean and the transatlantic trafficking of enslaved Africans and slavery, which are counted amongst the most atrocious crimes against humanity, and reaffirming, in turn, the urgent need to request efficient measures for reparation, compensation, indemnification or other in kind measures at a national, regional and international level.” (Para. 28)

The adoption in Managua of the “2019—2021 Plan of Action” also reconfirmed the tremendous foresight manifested way back in 1992 by Sir Shridath Ramphal and his fellow Commissioners of the “West Indian Commission”, when they proposed that CARICOM take the initiative to establish a Caribbean Basin-wide “Association of Caribbean States” as a mechanism for a broader and more extensive “Greater Caribbean” circle of functional cooperation.

The ACS “2019-2021 Plan of Action” constitutes a blueprint for a range of valuable initiatives and projects in the spheres of Sustainable Tourism, Regional Trade and External Economic Relations, Regional Air and Maritime Transportation, Regional Disaster Risk Reduction, matters pertaining to the Caribbean Sea, and initiatives in the fields of Culture, Education and Sports.

The triennial Plan of Action is extremely wide-ranging, and it will now be left up to the Executive Board of the ACS’ Ministerial Council, under the Chairmanship of Barbados, to confer with ACS Secretary General Dr June Soomer, and other officers of the ACS Secretariat located in Trinidad & Tobago, to establish priority projects and implementation modalities.

The ACS will be celebrating its 25th anniversary on the 24th of July 2019, and in his remarks to the assembled Heads of Government at the Summit, the incoming Chairman of the governing Ministerial Council, Dr the Hon. Jerome Walcott of Barbados, urged all ACS Member States and Associated Member States to undertake celebrations of the “silver anniversary” that are thoughtfully designed to forcefully bring the existence and achievements of the ACS to the attention and consciousness of the masses of people throughout our region of the Greater Caribbean.

Statement on Escalating Tensions in Venezuela Issued by the Thirtieth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community


A press release from CARICOM

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is deeply concerned by the recent further escalation of tensions in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the ensuing increase in hardship and suffering of the population exacerbated by the imposition of sanctions.

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Question for this article:

Can peace be maintained in the Caribbean region?

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The people of Venezuela must be allowed to decide their own future in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter – non-intervention, non-interference, prohibition of the threat or use of force, respect for the rule of law, human rights and democracy. As CARICOM has ceaselessly advocated, for this objective to be attained, there has to be a meaningful and internal dialogue between the contending parties. This dialogue must determine how best the crisis can be resolved within the confines of the constitution and the rule of law, whether by referendum, elections or any other agreed mechanism. Nothing short of this will lead to the quelling of this crisis or provide the relief that all Venezuelans desire.

Pending this, there must be a commitment to the delivery of humanitarian aid in a manner that is not politicised but which uses United Nations mechanisms that have been used over the years for the impartial and effective delivery of humanitarian relief.

[Editor’s note: the 15 members of CARICOM are Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Republic of Haiti, Montserrat, Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Barbados, Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Jamaica, Republic of Suriname, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.]

Mexico: authorities sign agreement for peace in Tecomán


An article from AF Medios (translated by CPNN)

Municipal authorities, federal and civil society, have signed the Partnership for Peace Agreement which seeks to promote and promote a culture of peace in the municipality of Tecomán. Signatories include the municipal president of Tecomán, Elías Antonio Lozano Ochoa, the federal deputy, Hugo Rafael Ruíz Luster, along with the state delegate of Programs for the Development of the State of Colima, Indira Vizcaíno Silva, and the president of the Citizen Council AC, Nazario Rodríguez Guerra.

Participants in the event held on Wednesday [March 6] included the federal deputy Rosa María Bayardo Cabrera, the general director of Economic Development, Rubén Reyes Ramírez, the head of Economic Promotion, José de Jesús Figueroa Cuevas, officials of the administration and representatives of various social organizations.

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(Click here for the original article in Spanish)

Questions for this article:

Nonviolence is at its best when violence is at its worst, Do you agree?

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Ruíz Lustre pointed out that society has a culture of war that leads it to commit acts by imitation.

“Therefore, every day at a younger age crimes are committed; That is why this agreement is being signed, which we started in Colima, the smallest and most violent state in the country. “Ruíz Lustre also mentioned that his main decision will be to promote, along with the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, an agreement for the previous military installations of the 20th Military Zone to become a Training Center for the Western Zone Police.

For its part, Indira Vizcaíno Silva said that the initiative coincides with the vision of the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to focus on prevention and promote a culture of peace and reconciliation.

Nazario Rodríguez Guerra, president of the Citizen Council said he was very worried about what has happened in Tecomán. “We must return to inculcate values, because we have fallen into consumerism and neglect. We need to achieve a peaceful society.”

To conclude, the mayor of Tecomán said he was convinced that peace is important for the development of communities, peoples and nations. “We are in this situation because we have stopped doing some important things, but I am also convinced that we will soon be able to reverse it and achieve better living conditions for all.”

[Editor’s Note: According to news reports, Tecomán has the highest crime rate in Mexico with with 164.5 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

El Salvador: Associations present project to promote a Culture of Peace


An article from Informa TVX (translation by CPNN)

The Association for the Development of El Salvador (CRIPDES) and the Research and Specialization Association on Ibero-American Issues (AIETI), have presented the project “Active and Strengthened Citizenship”, with the aim of promoting the culture of peace in 7 municipalities of La Libertad and San Salvador.

Video of the project

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(Click here for the article in Spanish)

Questions for this article:

How important is community development for a culture of peace?

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The representative of AIETI, César Apesteguia, said that the project for the culture of peace will last for 2 years, and will have an investment of more than 300 thousand euros.

For its part, the representative of CRIPDES, Ana Martínez, explained that the project will benefit children, young people and women, since they are the most vulnerable sector of the population.

The associations stated that the municipalities where the project will be implemented will be: Tacachico, Comasagua, Colón, Zaragoza, El Paisnal and Guazapa.

Likewise, they emphasized that young people, women and representatives of the ADESCOS will be trained to implement a citizen participation policy, as well as how to enforce their rights.

Mexico: Cuitláhuac García issues decree for Culture of Peace and Human Rights Directorate

. . . . . HUMAN RIGHTS . . . . .

An article from El Dictamen

The governor of the state of Veracruz, Cuitláhuac García Jiménez, has issued the Decree to form the General Directorate of Culture of Peace and Human Rights, as part of the Declaration of the Emerging Program for Crisis of Serious Violations of Human Rights in Matters of Disappearance of Persons in the State.

This decree reforms, adds and repeals various provisions of the Internal Regulation of the Government Secretariat and indicates that from this Thursday until the creation of the State Search Commission in the Entity, the attention to cases of missing persons will be made through of the General Directorate of Culture of Peace and Human Rights, under the Ministry of Government.

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(Click here for the original Spanish version of this article.)

Question related to this article:

How can we develop the institutional framework for a culture of peace?

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Among the powers of the head of the aforementioned unit are to assist in institutional strengthening through the design, implementation, management, strengthening and consolidation of public policies on culture and education for peace, in accordance with the constitutional and legal provisions on of human rights.

In addition, it will elaborate and coordinate the State Human Rights Program, in collaboration with the bodies of the State Public Administration, Autonomous Bodies and Civil Society, in accordance with the guidelines of the National Human Rights Program, the State Development Plan, and Sectoral, Regional, Institutional and Priority Programs.

Once approved by the head of the State Government Secretariat and published in the Official Gazette of the State, its implementation and compliance will be monitored and its evaluation coordinated.

Studies and thematic research on human rights will also be carried out, in order to analyze the information that originates from them and thus propose public policies on the matter, considering the results of reports, rapporteurs, committees and working groups of organizations multilateral and international human rights

Red Cross, UN Slam ‘Politicised’ USAID Humanitarian Assistance to Venezuela


An article from Veezuelanalysis

The International Red Cross has declined to participate in the Washington’s controversial humanitarian aid plan to Venezuela, it was announced this weekend.

The firearms were confiscated on a cargo plane arriving at Valencia airport from Miami last Tuesday (lechuguinos.com)

“We will not be participating in what is, for us, not humanitarian aid,” stated Colombia’s International Red Cross (ICRC) spokesperson, Christoph Harnisch.

The assistance, which is being coordinated by Venezuela’s self-proclaimed president, Juan Guaido, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), is reportedly comprised of US $20 million worth of medical, food, and personal hygiene supplies which are currently being warehoused in the Colombian border city of Cucuta.

The Venezuelan government has denied USAID personnel entry into the country, claiming that the aid is being used as cover for a foreign intervention to install Guaido in Miraflores presidential palace.

Harnisch also raised concerns about the aid being instrumentalized for political ends, calling on parties to have “respect for the term ‘humanitarian.’” Last week, ICRC Director of Global Operations Domink Stillhart had likewise told reporters that he considered the aid to have a “political tone”.

The Red Cross currently provides medical assistance to a number of Venezuelan hospitals under pre-existing and recently expanded international agreements with Maduro’s government.

On Wednesday, ICRC President Peter Maurer told reporters that the body will be doubling its budget to assist the Venezuelan government in countering the effects of the deep economic crisis.

“Our focus is really to, on the one side increase our response to Venezuelans, and on the other hand to keep away from the political controversy and political divisions which are characteristic to the crisis in Venezuela,” Maurer told press in Geneva.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has likewise raised objections to Washington’s “politicised” aid plan.

“Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York last Wednesday.

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Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

What is really happening in Venezuela?

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UN spokespeople have also recently vowed to increase the budgets of current aid programs carried out in coordination with the Maduro administration.

President Maduro has staunchly rejected US aid, claiming that while Venezuela has problems, it is not “a beggar country.”

He also pointed out that the reported $20 million in US aid pales in comparison to the estimated US $30 million per day the new US oil embargo will cost Venezuela this year.

On January 28, US National Security Advisor John Bolton unveiled the latest round of economic sanctions prohibiting corporations under US jurisdiction from purchasing oil from Venezuela’s PDVSA state oil company, which he said will deny the company US $11 billion in revenues in 2019. Bolton also announced a freezing of Houston-based PDVSA subsidiary CITGO’s assets, which are valued at US $7 billion.

“If [the US] wants to help, then lift the sanctions,” Maduro urged at a recent press conference. He also qualified the plan as a media “show” and a “trap” which looks to “justify [foreign] intervention in the country.”

Fears of a direct military intervention in Venezuela have grown in recent weeks after both US President Donald Trump and opposition leader Juan Guaido refused to rule it out.

Adding to these concerns, Venezuelan authorities announced that they confiscated a cache of illegal firearms they say were smuggled into the country from Miami last Tuesday. The 19 assault rifles, 118 explosive charges, 90 radio antennas and six latest generation smartphones arrived on a Boeing 767 cargo flight from the 21 Air company to Valencia airport.

Maduro has ordered a reinforcement of border security in response to the increased threats, with the armed forces loyally executing his order not to let the USAID personnel enter the country.

He has also been under attack this week following the circulation of a picture of the Tienditas bridge connecting Venezuela and Colombia blocked by tankers, with international commentators accusing him of closing the bridge this week. The bridge was culminated in 2015 but was never opened due to border tensions between Venezuela and Colombia that flared up later that year.

US establishment figures from both sides of the political aisle, including Vice President Mike Pence, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have lined up to back the aid plan, denouncing Maduro for refusing to open Venezuelan borders and urging him to step aside as Venezuela’s leader.

What do the people of Venezuela want?


A media survey by CPNN

On February 20, we tried to find out what the people of Venezuela want by putting the following into Google: “Venezuela poll.”

Here are the results we found for polls taken in 2019.

Video of Hinterlaces poll results (in Spanish)

CBS News reports on February 2 that “a new poll . . . showed 82 percent of Venezuelans want Maduro to quit,” but they give no source for this.

We tried various google strategies to find a source corresponding to the claims of CBS, but we could find nothing.

On the other hand, we found the following well-documented source which show very different results.

From the website of Globovision (translated from the Spanish by CPNN): “A study conducted by the polling firm Hinterlaces between January 21 and February 2, 2019, revealed that 57% of respondents consider that the government of the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, is legitimate. The study was carried out on the basis of 1,580 direct interviews in homes in the country, reported journalist José Vicente Rangel on Sunday, in the Confidential section of the José Vicente Hoy program. In the survey, it was asked: Who do you consider to be the legitimate President of Venezuela? Nicolás Maduro (57%); Juan Guaidó (32%) and in the item, Do not know does not respond (11%).”

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Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

What is really happening in Venezuela?

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As for the polling firm Hinterlaces, it is said by the Grayzone Project that “Hinterlaces is led by the independent pollster Oscar Schemel, who has experience studying numerous elections in Venezuela and has a pro-business perspective. Most polling firms in the country, such as the competitor Datanálisis, tend to be pro-opposition. Hinterlaces is more neutral, and often leans toward the government, although Schemel has criticized some of Maduro’s economic policies.”>

According to the Grayzone Project, an earlier poll conducted by Hinterlaces in January found that “86 percent of Venezuelans would disagree with international military intervention. And 81 percent oppose the US sanctions that have gravely hurt the South American nation’s economy.”

Polls taken in 2018 showed that the people of Venezuela have very little confidence in either the government or the opposition. A Pew Research Center survey conducted from Sept. 12 to Dec. 7, 2018 found that “only a third of Venezuelans trust their national government. Among the roughly two-thirds who distrust it, nearly four-in-ten (39%) say they don’t trust it at all.”> At the same time, another poll found that the opposition National Assembly headed by self-proclaimed President Guaido had a disapproval rate of 70%.

[Editor’s note: The Venezuela results are not much different from those of a similar poll in the United States, according to the most recent data from the Gallup Poll . In response to the question “how much trust and confidence do you have in our federal government in Washington when it comes to handling Domestic problems”, the results are Great deal: 6, Fair amount: 29, Not very much: 43, None at all: 20.

Solar Energy Provides Hope for Poor Neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires


An article from Inter Press Service (reprinted by permission)

Solar panels shine on the rooftop terraces of 10 neat buildings with perfectly straight lines and of uniform height, an image of modernity that contrasts with the precariously-built dwellings with unplastered concrete block walls just a few metres away, with rooms added in a disorderly manner, surrounded by a tangle of electric cables.

Villa 31, the most famous shantytown in the capital of Argentina, due to its location in a central area of Buenos Aires, is undergoing a transformation process, not without controversy, in which clean energies play an important role.

Solar panels are seen on rooftops of the La Containera social housing complex in Villa 31, and in the background can be seen the towers of the luxurious office area of the Argentine capital. The shantytown has a privileged location within Buenos Aires, next to La Recoleta, one of the city’s most sought-after neighborhoods. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The State is building hundreds of new homes with rooftops covered by solar panels, which bring energy to a neighborhood where access to basic services has always depended on informal and unsafe connections.

For decades, Buenos Aires city government authorities periodically promised to eradicate Villa 31, which first emerged nearly 90 years ago, and today is a postcard of poverty, which at the same time shows the vitality of thousands of people who carry out commercial and productive activities despite their deprivation anddependence on the informal economy.

But the threats turned into hope in 2009, when a local law was passed that ordered the urbanisation of the Villa, paving streets, giving property titles to the local residents and – in short – turning it into just another neighborhood of a city that historically saw it as a foreign body impossible to hide.

In Argentina, the word for slums and shantytowns is villa. A survey released by the government in 2018 indicates that around the country there are 4,228 villas, home to around 3.5 million people, out of a total population of 44 million.

In particular, in Buenos Aires proper there are 233,000 people – or 7.6 per cent of the population, not counting the working-class suburbs – living in shantytowns.

The urbanisation of Villa 31 is a monumental task that only began to be carried out in 2016 and today is slowly changing the face of a veritable city within a city, which has grown enormously in size in recent years.

According to the latest official data, 43,190 people live there, in 10,076 houses, compared to just 12,204 people livingthere when the severe economic crisis broke out in 2001.

Since then, despite the fact that Argentina experienced several years of economic growth, Villa 31 was the only option found by more and more families who couldn’t afford to buy or rent a house in the formal market.

Villa 31 covers 44 hectares between Retiro, one of the capital’s main railway stations, and La Recoleta, one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Buenos Aires.

“We came to Villa 31 four years ago, after the building where we lived in the neighborhood of La Boca burned down and we ended up on the street,” Valeria Barrientos, a married mother of four children between the ages of two and 13, told IPS.

Barrientos, whose husband is a truck driver, says it is “a gift from heaven” to have hot water and electricity provided by solar energy, even when there are power outages – especially frequent in Villa 31, where the supply is unstable, and where many homes have irregular, precarious connections to the grid.

Her family has been living in the La Containera section of the Villa since September 2017, which takes its name from the fact that it was a depot for old containers until three years ago. They were offered an apartment there, to be paid over 30 years, because they lived on a plot of land in the Villa where a highway is now being built.

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Question for this article:

Are we making progress in renewable energy?

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La Containera has three-storey buildings with solar panels to power the thermotanks that heat water for bathrooms and kitchens, to fuel the pumps that raise the water to the tanks, and to provide the homes with electricity.

“We installed 174 solar panels on the rooftops in La Containera,” Rodrigo Alonso, general manager of Sustentator, an Argentine company with 10 years of experience in renewable energy, told IPS.

Alonso recalls that “the first time I came to the Villa I was amazed when I saw the huge bundles of cables running from the electricity poles to the houses. The power is paid by the state, but the houses have very unsafe connections.”

“The change today is huge, because the new houses have a guaranteed power supply and do not have to pay for the energy. In addition, the surplus electricity can be injected into the grid,” he added.

Arrangements to feed the energy generated by the solar panels into the power grid and to obtain a credit from the distribution company are expected to be formalised in Argentina this year, when the Distributed Generation of Renewable Energies Law, approved in 2017 and whose regulations were completed last November, comes into effect.

The solar panels are part of the building and are not individual. Therefore, if in the future there is surplus energy to add to the grid, it will be compensated with a credit for the consortium managing the buildings, which will be subtracted from the charge for energy consumption in the common areas of the housing complex.

Solar panels are also being installed to guarantee energy in the most ambitious project going ahead in Villa 31: the construction of 26 buildings with more than 1,000 homes, on land that belonged to the state-owned oil company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF).

These new homes are earmarked for the people whose houses will be demolished for the construction of the highway and other roads, although many local residents are skeptical.

“We are concerned that the promises will not be kept and that many families will end up in the street. We are going to defend each family’s relocation,” Héctor Guanco, who has lived with his family in Villa 31 for nearly 20 years, told IPS.

The availability of solar energy makes a decisive difference in a country where electricity tariffs have risen by more than 500 percent in the last three years.

“Going from informality to formality can mean economic pressure that is very difficult to bear, because you have to pay a mortgage for housing, plus taxes and the public services,” Facundo Di Filippo, a former Buenos Aires city councilor, told IPS.

Di Filippo was the author of the law for the urbanisation of Villa 31 and is now president of the non-governmental Center for Studies and Action for Equality.

He is critical of the way in which the city government approached the urbanisation of Villa 31, arguing that “the focus has been on improving the vicinity of an area of Buenos Aires that has a high real estate value, in order to benefit private businesses.”

The new buildings were built with sustainability criteria that are unprecedented in Buenos Aires, as demanded by the World Bank, which provided a credit of 170 million dollars to finance the urbanisation process.

“The walls have both thermal and sound insulation, which reduces energy consumption. In addition, a rainwater collection system was placed on the roofs to irrigate the housing complex’s green spaces,” Juan Ignacio Salari, undersecretary of urban infrastructure for the government of Buenos Aires, told IPS.

“We are also trying to move forward with the World Bank to finance a programme to replace household appliances, because many Villa 31 residents have very old refrigerators or air conditioners, which are very energy inefficient,” he added.

“The people of Villa 31 want to regularise their situation and pay for the services they receive. The state must help them do this,” said the official, who added that the plan is to put solar panels on the new buildings and formally connect the other houses to the power grid.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)