Islanders rally at La Fortaleza to call for end to LUMA contract
By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar
Special to The Star
Hundreds of people made their way to Old San Juan on Thursday afternoon to protest in front of the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza, against the private consortium LUMA Energy, after dozens of blackouts over the past several weeks.
LUMA Energy took over as operator of the island’s electrical transmission and distribution system in June 2021.
The protest gained traction after singer René Pérez, known as Residente Calle 13, posted a call to action on his social media of more than 8 million followers, asking people to go and protest against LUMA. Another singer, Benito Martínez, known as Bad Bunny, has also been vocal against LUMA in his latest concert tour behind his hit album “Un Verano Sin Ti” (A Summer Without You).
LUMA Energy had taken a passive stance against the anger of Puerto Rico residents who are tired of losing money on food and electronics caused by the blackouts. A recent press conference, offered in English, seemed to further galvanize that anger against what people perceive as arrogance on part of the company.
On Wednesday, LUMA announced a series of changes in its managerial staff, falling short of asking its president and CEO, Wayne Stensby, to resign. The movement to dump LUMA appeared to gain more steam after Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said he’s not satisfied with the company’s performance.
Representatives from all political and social groups have been asking the governor to cancel LUMA’s contract, but Pierluisi has said he’ll give the consortium a chance to fix its metrics and improve its service.
In front of La Fortaleza, dozens of policemen and members of the Rapid Action Strike Force remained vigilant as people chanted against the private company and the government.