Activists demand energy independence amid ongoing blackouts in Puerto Rico

Activists demand energy independence amid ongoing blackouts in Puerto Rico

By Mivette Vega

June 21, 2024

Recent weeks have seen a surge in blackouts in Puerto Rico caused by problems in transmission and generation lines. Towns in the south, like Santa Isabel and Coamo, have borne the brunt of these outages.

Activists from Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora staged a protest in New York Wednesday night, calling for a better energy system for island residents. Thousands of Puerto Ricans have endured constant blackouts in recent weeks.

The group went to the Manhattan offices of New Fortress Energy, the parent company of Genera, which is in charge of generating electricity on the island.

RELATED: Major power outage leaves 350,000 Puerto Ricans in the dark

“The privatization of energy distribution by LUMA, combined with the privatization of energy generation by Genera PR/New Fortress Energy, has gone from bad to worse,” said unionist David Galarza in a statement.

Recent weeks have seen a surge in blackouts caused by problems in transmission and generation lines. Towns in the south, like Santa Isabel and Coamo, have borne the brunt of these outages, with residents facing not just darkness but damaged appliances, lost food due to lack of refrigeration, and limited access to water due to failing pumps. Last Wednesday, another massive power outage affected 350,000 clients.

Protesters pointed out the long-term economic consequences of relying on private companies for energy. The high cost of electricity stifles business growth and burdens households.

But beyond economics, the protest resonated with a deeper yearning for self-determination. Casa Pueblo, a self-managed community organization renowned for its energy independence initiatives, played a key role in organizing the demonstration. Their message: Puerto Rico can’t chart its own course if it’s tethered to foreign energy corporations.

“The energy transition we need is one that leads to independence,” declared Arturo Massol Deyá, Casa Pueblo’s executive director. He highlighted his upcoming testimony before the United Nations Decolonization Committee, where he will argue that energy sovereignty is a crucial prerequisite for genuine self-determination for Puerto Rico.

RELATED: Puerto Rico Extends LUMA’s Contract Despite Strong Opposition

The timing of the protest was intentional. It coincided with the Committee’s scheduled session, where Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination will be discussed for the 42nd time. For many activists, the energy crisis symbolizes a larger struggle: the fight for Puerto Rico’s right to shape its own future, free from external control.

The group of protestors included organizations like Jornada se Acabaron Las Promesas, Por Libertad, La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, and the Socialist Front. They called for the government to reclaim control of the energy sector and invest heavily in renewable energy sources. Moving away from fossil fuels, they argued, was not just an environmental necessity, but also a key step towards energy independence and economic resilience in the face of climate change.

Author

  • Mivette Vega

    Mivette Vega is a seasoned journalist and multimedia reporter whose stories center the Latino community. She is passionate about justice, equality, environmental matters, and animals. She is a Salvadorrican—Salvadorian that grew up in Puerto Rico—that has lived in San Juan, Venice, Italy, and Miami.

CATEGORIES: LOCAL NEWS
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