Rising Electricity Costs Force Coastal Residents to Protest

October 7, 2013

What started off as a meeting to discuss the high electricity rates on the Coast of Nicaragua ended in a call for manifestation.

The Communal Board of Pearl Lagoon invited ENEL big boss Martin Duarte from Managua, its citizens and those of the other Coastal communities of Raitipura, Owas, Kahkahbilah, Brown Bank, Lafay and Haulover, to come speak about solutions for the exorbitant rates being charged. Mr. Duarte had agreed to come but called today to say he was unable to attend leaving the local ENEL officer to respond to questions that were clearly outside of his purview.

The rep, Stennet Hansack, was peppered with case after case of increasing electric bills, service disconnections, displays of favoritism, service interruptions and unhelpful responses. True to form, Mr. Hansack was unable to provide any useful information or answer any questions to satisfy the crowd.

He touted the company lines of “reduce consumption”, “monitor usage by reading your meters in the morning and in the evening”, and “reclaim any bill” but “you still have to pay it”.

Mr. Hansack attempted to explain that comparisons to what the residents in Bluefields pay for electricity is pointless because Bluefields’ tariff is lower. When asked why Bluefields, a big city, has a lower tariff, he lacked the capacity to give a suitable response. He did the same with every question that was posed instead deploying the spin doctor technique of speaking but saying nothing.

One participant explained that she owned a business that depended on electricity but that with the frequency and duration of service interruptions, her business was losing money. “If I can’t run my business because I don’t have power, how am I expected to earn money to pay my light bill,” she queried.

Another voice echoed that sentiment and added that local businesses are increasing their prices to make up for damaged inventory. “This is putting a pressure on the people when they go to buy food and other necessities,” she said. “It is getting bad when people have to choose between eating and paying their light bill.”

One man told of leaving his house with all the power off for four days and when he checked his bill, it was higher.

Many told stories of ENEL employees standing as far as the street when they read the meter which is attached to the house. “I can hardly read the numbers when I’m standing right under the meter so unless he has super vision, I’m sure he can’t read it from the road,” one woman said.

As the stories continued, the residents became more and more agitated. It was finally clear that Mr. Hansack could do nothing for them and it was suggested that no one pay their bills and hold a manifestation—a protest—to shut down the local ENEL office until the Managua bosses come to the coast to hear the complaints and offer solutions for lower bills.

A few registered concerns about having their power cut off or police violence in retaliation but they were assured that the manifestation would be held according to law which includes notifying police and media at least 24 hours in advance.

The manifestation will begin at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday October 10th in front of the Perlas Lagunas Institute.