‘We’ll protest until all the lights are on in Puerto Rico’

By Seth Galinsky
March 5, 2018
‘We’ll protest until all the lights are on in Puerto Rico’
Alex Figueroa

More than 200 residents of Aguas Buenas and nearby towns marched outside Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s central offices in San Juan Feb. 12. They sang, “We come from Aguas Buenas to let you know, if the light doesn’t come on, we’ll be here [outside your office] forever.”

Five months and counting since hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the island at least 700,000 people are still without light, and many don’t have running water.

“At a meeting at the House of Christ the Savior Catholic Church, community members decided to organize ourselves regardless of political affiliation or religion and protest,” Father Hipólito Vicens, who helped organize the action, told the Militant by phone Feb. 16. The Feb. 12 protest was the largest of dozens of similar actions that have been taking place across the U.S. colony.

“There’s some work being done on the outskirts of the town, but it’s extremely slow,” Vicens said. “And 10 or 11 trucks from a U.S. company park here every day, but they don’t do any work.”

How did company bosses respond? “The power company removed all the brigades that were actually doing any work,” he said. “Now the only ones that come are the ones from the U.S. that park their trucks and don’t do anything.

“We’re going to hold another assembly Feb. 26 to discuss what’s next,” Vicens said. “Our dream is to include people from the rural and mountainous areas across the central part of the island. These are the poorer, less developed zones that have been left totally on their own.”

A bankruptcy court Feb. 19 approved a $300 million loan to the Power Authority, less than a third of what it says it needs to buy enough fuel to keep running. To help pay the Puerto Rican government’s $74 billion debt, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló plans to sell off the power company to the highest bidder.

The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico — tasked with squeezing Puerto Rican working people to pay as much back to bondholders as possible — is now demanding the colonial regime strike down laws there that prevent bosses from firing workers without cause.