Residents and workers in the Puerto Rican city of Toa Alta hit the streets with the town’s mayor leading the way to protest state-owned Electric Power Authority, AEE, on Thursday.
"The demonstration is to make it clear to the government of Puerto Rico and the AEE that they must accelerate the work and send more brigades to the city," said the Toa Alta mayor, Clemente Agosto.
The town’s demands are simple. An end to the continued series of delays which have left 65 percent of the city and at least 20 businesses dark and without power since Hurricane Maria hit the territory five months ago.
The company’s incredible mismanagement has contributed mainly to the months of delays surrounding the electrical repairs. This was made painfully clear after a statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USACE, revealed that government authorities seized thousands of materials which were supposedly out of stock.
Over 2,875 pieces of materials were discovered during a raid of a Palo Seco warehouse which was led by federal officers, accompanied by armed security personnel.
"The material stored in the warehouse is critical for the mission of restoring Puerto Rico's electrical system ... Warehouse number five is in control of the Transmission Division, and has lacked transparency and responsibility in the inventory," said USACE spokesperson Luciano Vera told The Intercept.
Both the USACE and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, were charged with managing the distribution of materials. Vera stated he and the other engineers were shocked to find the wealth of building repairs filling the warehouse shelves. Meanwhile, half a million of Puerto Rican families remain homeless with 30,000 surviving the winter temperatures with blue tarps stretched over the gaping holes where their roofs once were.
"The irresponsibility and ineptitude of the Authority is such that they do not even know what they have in stock to repair the electrical network of Puerto Rico. Here we have had Puerto Rican engineers who returned to their jobs in the United States annoyed because they could not give their best because of the lack of materials,” said Democratic Party House Representative Ramon Luis Cruz Burgos.
“However, today a warehouse full of materials appears. It is incredible, the degree of irresponsibility and incapacity of the government. The insensibility is such that they forget that they play with the lives of people. It is not only who needs machines or equipment that work with electricity to maintain their life, it is that people lose jobs because there is no electric service, children do not receive the first-class education required by the modern world, health services are affected, and drinking water service does not arrive properly. The abuse that causes the ineptitude has to end now, you cannot keep losing time in people who act as if governing was a game,” the politician said, calling for immediate government action.
The Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosello announced Wednesday his plans to launch a campaign to become the 51st US state and end 120 years of colonialism. No U.S. state would ever have to struggle with a six-month-blackout or the damaged infrastructural conditions, Puerto Rico has suffered, Rosello said, adding that he felt it was the right thing to do.