Puerto Ricans resisting electricity privatisationFriday, October 22, 2021
There is now a stand-off in Puerto Rico over the privatisation of the country's electricity sector, which is being resisted by Puerto Ricans, both on the island and in the diaspora
Puerto Ricans, who have been experiencing widespread power outages, utility price hikes, and voltage fluctuations over the past three weeks, have been mounting fierce resistance to the privatisation of the country's electricity sector. They are resisting what they claim to be austerity politics and privatisation, which have been repackaged as public-private partnerships and forced upon communities without their consent.
There is growing communal resistance to corporate capitalism, which is emerging in Puerto Rico and the situation has not been made easier since the plethora of ongoing issues in the energy sector.
These issues, locals say, have arisen since the start of the public-private partnership between Luma Energy and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the island's public energy corporation, which is in charge of power generation.
Luma Energy is the US-Canadian company that has taken control of the island's power transmission and distribution system. Since its takeover, Luma Energy has imposed four electricity rate increases, despite not being able to provide adequate service.
Last week demonstrators blocked Puerto Rico Highway 18 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, calling much attention to insistent blackouts and the 15-year contract between Luma Energy and PREPA. Despite reports of flagrant disinformation and other peculiar obstructions, thousands of Puerto Ricans marched down the usually busy highway waving flags and banners.
On October 9, protesters staged a demonstration in Aguadilla. Residents of Puerto Rico protested again on October 18 at the Capitol in San Juan, where they demanded an end to the US plan to make cuts to social services, public education, and pensions.
Back in the mainland United States, Puerto Ricans in the diaspora held solidarity protests. Some gathered in New York City at Union Square and demanded the ouster of Luma Energy.
Demonstrators everywhere echoed the popular rallying cry, “Fuera luma” (Luma out). At one point, the energy corporation attempted to bill consumers 16 per cent more for electricity before the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau declined Luma Energy's request and approved a three per cent increase instead.
Many of the power plants in Puerto Rico are located along the southern coast of the island. This means that transmission and distribution lines stretch across long tracts of land to reach mountainous regions and metropolitan areas like San Juan, which is why the transmission and distribution system is vulnerable to hurricanes.