The breakdown at the Aguirre power plant on September 21st provoked the energy collapse of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) leaving more than a million subscribers without service for several days. The power outage resulted in hundreds of cases of emergencies as well as several deaths among the poor that suffered from compromising health conditions. It also caused the debate over the privatization of PREPA to boil to the surface once again. For the workers it is important to understand the trends that have become generalized and which have even deepened to the extent to which the bosses continue their exploitative offensive.
We know very well that the causes of the outage are rooted in the intentional negligence of the administrators of the PREPA infrastructure. The top management of this ‘public corporation’ is composed of magnates and businessmen from the private sector. Donahue and Quintana acted well aware that they could leave the country without electric service just as has happened before. The private management of our ‘public corporation’ made the decision to risk the continuity of service and leave the people in the dark in order to increase profit margins while at the same time using the antiquated technology of the utility as a tool to manipulate public opinion towards favoring privatization.
The Energy Commission de-authorized the continuation of construction at the Aguirre Gasport. Why? Because if the workers complete the Gasport at this time, which would last about one year to construct, energy costs will fall dramatically and there will not be any justification to build a new generation plant there. They are detaining the port project so that private investment can continue. This represents the search for capitalist profits from the regular flow of revenue stemming from the consumption of energy. The Electric Workers Union (UTIER) has condemned all of these trends for years and also shown us that within the pulse of these problems there can be found solutions that would benefit the majority that suffers from these outages.
Public utilities such as PREPA are just another form of capitalist enterprise. They are obligated to compete and subject to the pressure of Wall Street bondholders. At times in which privatization appears to represent the most efficient form for businesses to exploit labor, the government will not drag its feet in handing over utilities like PREPA over to ‘private’ interests.
At the same time PREPA, as a ‘public corporation’, demonstrates to workers that just as it is necessary for them to struggle against privatization, as well as to unmask management failures and even put forth responses to the utility’s problems, workers control over energy production is indispensable so that energy resources really become a right of the people. Whoever controls energy controls the country. The recent power outage demonstrates the importance of workers control over these means of production. Not only because it is we that suffer the consequences but because the workers of the Electric Workers Union (UTIER) have proven their capacity to come up with the best solutions to the problem of energy production.