Puerto Ricans Protest Against Electricity Bills and Blackouts

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Demonstrators Protest Against the Soaring Cost of Electricity in Puerto Rico.

Demonstrations took place just one day after Governor Pierluisi vetoed a bill that proposed setting a maximum rate of US$2 cents per kilowatt hour.

On Wednesday, July 20, thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets to demand Governor Pedro Pierluisi cancel the contract with the Luma Energy company, which generated notorious increases in electricity bills and blackouts.

The demonstrators raised banners with messages expressing their rejection of that company during their march, which started in Congress and in the seat of government, La Fortaleza. Several mayors and opposition lawmakers from the Popular Democratic Party and the Puerto Rican Independence Party joined the protests.

A year ago, the private company Luma took over the transmission and distribution of electricity, a task that was previously carried out by the state-owned Electric Power Authority (AEE).

Since then, the electricity bill has increased seven times and there have been various breakdowns in substations and plants that have caused blackouts, one of which lasted several days and affected the entire island in April.

The march took place just one day after Puerto Rico’s governor vetoed a bill that proposed cutting AEE’s debt by 75 percent and setting a maximum rate of US$2 cents per kilowatt hour as one of the conditions for debt restructuring, amounting to US$9 billion. In a letter addressed to Congress, Pierluisi said that such measures are contrary to the current legal system and incompatible with the federal PROMESA law and with the Fiscal Plan.

During the demonstrations, Angel Figueroa, president of the Electric Industry and Irrigation Workers’ Union, said that workers have designed a project to pay EPA’s debt. This project proposes to suspend increases in service rates made to pay illegitimate debts, guarantee the future pensions of officials, and promote the transition towards renewable energy sources.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering going over the governor’s veto, said Rafael Hernandez, a member of the Popular Democratic Party and President of the House of Representatives.

Telesurenglish.net