Argentina: Chinese spaceport plan protested

Protesters led by the Party of Labor and the People (PTP) held a march Feb. 13 at Bajada del Agrio, in Argentina's Neuquén province, to oppose plans for a spaceport to be built in cooperation with China. The PTP's Popular Front issued a statement accusing national and provincial authorities of "deepening the dependence of our country on Chinese imperialism." It said the deal would establish a "foreign enclave" and constitute a "cession of Argentine sovereignty." Protesters marched to the construction site at Quintuco, where the base is to be operated by China Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General (CLTC), an agency closely linked to the People's Liberation Army. (, Neuquén Al Instante, Feb. 13)

On the same day as the protest, the Foreign Relations and Science & Technology commissions in Argentina's Chamber of Deputies approved legislation that would allow the project to move ahead. It now awaits approval by the full Chamber, having already been approved by the Senate. Legislators are demanding guarantees that the base will be built with Argentine labor, although the technicians at the facility will be from  the CLTC. (Diario El Argentino, Feb. 13)

Argentina's press are dubbing the project a "lunar base," and the possibility of Moon flights from the facility has been broached. Ground was broken on the project at the beginning of the year, despite the fact it still awaits final approval by the National Congress. Under an accord between the CLTC and Argentina's National Commission of Space Activities (CONAE), the base is supposed to be operational in 2016. (iProfesional, Feb. 10)

The mayor of the city of Neuquén, Horacio "Pechi" Quiroga, is a vocal critic of the project, and charges that the CLTC-CONAE accord has "secret clauses," drawing an analogy to Chevron's controversial oil contracts in the province. Clearly implying Chinese designs on the region's resources, he added: "The million-dollar question is why they chose Quintuco and not Tanzania, Alaska or Greenland." (InfoBAE, Feb. 10)

Chinese firms have been accused of land-grabbing for soy plantations in Argentina.