Mayra Rivera (55), who was a participant in the march, said, “We’re tired coming home and finding that we don’t have lights.”
Over 4,000 protestors were outraged by the ongoing power outages in Puerto Rico. They marched Friday to complain about how the absence of electricity has affected their work, health, and education.
Many demanded Luma’s ouster, a private company which took control of the island’s power distribution and transmission on June 1. Others are also angry at Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority. This authority owns and operates generation units which have been failing in recent weeks due to lack of maintenance.
Mayra Rivera (55), said that she was tired of returning home to find no lights. She also expressed concern about her parents who are in their 90s and the heat at home.
As the sun set, thousands marched down the main road in San Juan to block traffic. They held their phones high, making the highway a sea of tiny lights. The governor was forced to resign after large protests shut down the highway in 2019.
Some were wearing T-shirts reading “Go to hell Luma”, while others clapped on pots and banged on them. They walked behind massive speakers that played slogans like “My power went off, damn it, my fridge will be destroyed” and “My power went out.
Juan Antonio Rivera (78), was one of those who marched. He said that the latest outage had left him without power for 43 hours. His two computers were damaged by previous outages.
He exclaimed, “And one of them was $200 to fix!” I have the receipts at my home and can send them to Luma.
In recent months, power outages have been more frequent and longer. People have complained that they can’t use respiratory therapy or have had to throw away food or insulin. Many people have also complained that they are unable or unwilling to work, that their children cannot attend online classes, or that expensive appliances have been damaged.
Cicma Albino (56-year-old Guayama teacher) drove over an hour to take part in the demonstration. Outages impacted her school for three consecutive days.
She said, “We had to send the students home.”
One demonstrator, who was a lineman for Electric Power Authority, wore his work clothes with helmet and tool belt. He said he was angry at the outages because his mother is in bed.
Jesus Ambert, the Outage-Speaker, said that “She will suffer.”
After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s powerful Category 4 storm in September 2017, has made the power grid unstable. The government announced on Thursday that the first federal funds were disbursed to the Electric Power Authority. This money is $7.1 million and will be used for reconstruction. However, efforts to strengthen the grid are still not in place. This money is part of a total $9.5 billion that the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has obligated to rebuild the grid.
Josue Colon is the new director of the authority. He stated that officials have identified several projects worth $2.4 billion. He noted that the generator units are in “critical conditions.”
Luma also announced that it had provided electricity to the island of Culebra for the first time, a community that previously relied solely on solar panels or generators. On Friday, Luma was also authorized to launch eight transmission- and distribution reconstruction projects in the amount of $117 million.