SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (AP) – More than 4,000 people outraged over ongoing power outages in the United States (US) territory of Puerto Rico marched on Friday to decry how the lack of electricity has affected their health, work and children’s schooling.
Many of them demanded the ouster of Luma, a private company that took over the island’s transmission and distribution of power on June 1. Some also are angry at Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, which owns and operates generation units that have been breaking down in recent weeks largely due to a lack of maintenance and repair.
“We’re tired of coming home and discovering that we have no lights,” said Mayra Rivera, 55, adding she is especially worried about her parents, who are in their 90s, and the sweltering heat they face at home.
Thousands marched down a main highway in the capital of San Juan as the sun set, blocking traffic. Once dark, they held their cellphones aloft, turning the highway into a sea of tiny lights. The highway was last shut down during large protests in 2019 that led to the resignation of the governor.
Some clapped or banged on pots while walking behind huge speakers on pickups that blasted slogans such as, “My power went out, and now my fridge will be ruined.”
Among those marching was Juan Antonio Rivera, 78, who said the most recent outage left him in the dark this week for 43 hours. Previous ones damaged his two computers.
“And one of them cost USD200 to fix!” he exclaimed. “I have the receipts at home to send to Luma.”
Power outages have occurred more frequently and lasted longer in recent months, with people complaining that they cannot give themselves respiratory therapies or have had to throw away insulin or food.
Many also have complained that they can’t work or their children are unable to attend online classes, and that expensive appliances have been damaged.