LUMA Energy: Analysis of Puerto Rico left in the dark

            On October 15, 2021, thousands of Puerto Ricans marched through el Expreso Las Américas, a highway in Hato Rey, to protest the inefficiency of LUMA Energy in distributing stable electricity. Starting in August, 1.5 million residents have been experiencing blackouts that not only interfere with their ability to work and study from home, refrigerate their food and medications, but has also affected businesses such as airports, hospitals, and malls. In other words, Puerto Rico per usual is left in the dark. The privatization of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) through its contract with LUMA Energy reflects some of the issues about Capitalism discussed in the Communist Manifesto, a pamphlet written by Karl Marx & Frederick Engels. Essentially, LUMA is resembling a monopoly that controls PR’s electric system and part of the anguish of its people is due to the exploitation they are experiencing. LUMA, which is a company affiliated with the United States and Canada is acting as the oppressor and the people of Puerto Rico are the oppressed. 

            On page 13 of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels state that “the bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns,” and that “just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois.” This statement is the reality that Puerto Rico, my native home, has been living for centuries. 

Back in 2015, when Alejandro Garcia Padilla, the ex-governor, announced that Puerto Rico cannot pay 72 billion dollars of debt, the political tension in the island grew. The rhetoric that Puerto Rico is “the best of both worlds,” for in its roots there is the “enchantment” of Spanish, Native & African culture and the “freedom” offered by U.S. capitalism, began to fade. Puerto Ricans have grown weary of the status as a commonwealth because being neither a country nor a state offers no viable solutions to our problems. The island of Puerto Rico has been dependent of the United States for any decision, and despite its residents being citizens of the U.S, residents in the island cannot vote in the elections. 

With the debt and the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, it’s clear to Puerto Rican citizens that “new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle” are replacing “old ones” (Marx & Engels 9). Rather than solve the problem of our status, the debt became an opportunity to further grow PR’s dependance to the oppressors. To avoid making Puerto Rico a state or losing Puerto Rico through providing its independence, the U.S. Government formed an independent board known as La Junta with the purpose of overseeing the island’s fiscal matters. However, La Junta does not consist of Puerto Rican members, every one of its members are Americans appointed by Barak Obama in 2016. As Catalina M. de Onís and Hilda Lloréns explain in an article published by Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, “The board’s neoliberal agenda is motivated by maximizing profits for capitalist interests via privatization and deregulation.” The most recent privatization is that of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. 

The contract between PREPA and LUMA Energy is a perfect example of new conditions of oppression replacing old ones. On Thursday July 23, 2020, the House of Representatives in PR met with the chair of Natural Resources, Raúl M. Grijalva at the Natural Resources Committee to go over the transformation of PREPA. There some of the essential problems PREPA faced (which we should think of as the old conditions of oppression) were discussed. Some of the concerns being raised in this hearing included the possibility of PREPA becoming privatized by signing a contract with LUMA. They mentioned that residents were paying excessive rates for an electrical grid that was failing, and that there weren’t enough measurements taking place to restore power after Hurricane Maria and numerous earthquakes.  In the hearing Jennifer González Colón, representative of Puerto Rico said that “over 1.9 billion dollars” had been given in funds yet there is a lack of transparency over how those funds were being used. And Ruth Santiago member of the Queremos Sol Coalition explained that PREPA had promise to achieve “100% renewable energy by 2050,” a goal that would help not only the world but also Puerto Ricans who pay excessive electric bills; but no measures were being taken to make this happen. Furthermore, Santiago explained in Section III of her testimony that PREPA’s contract with LUMA Energy, a company tied to the US natural gas industry, “goes against the necessary transformation of PREPA,” instead it “further facilitates the coal burning power plant in Guayama.” However, what is the most irritating truth about this hearing is the fact that despite government being concerned about the contract between LUMA and PREPA, the contract was signed this year. In the hearing, it was explained that the contract ensures that PREPA pay LUMA a service fee of $83million. 

Simply put by Grijalva, Puerto Rico has become a “gold mine for US contractors.” 

            LUMA, which is exploiting Puerto Rican citizens by overcharging them and not providing a reliable service is in this case acting as the bourgeois class. Its basis is the “formation and augmentation of capital” (Marx & Engels 21), without considering the well-being of the proletarian.  In an article by The New York Times written by Patricia Mazzei, she explains that “Puerto Rico awarded a 15-year contract to LUMA last year to operate the transmission and distribution system and handle its reconstruction, arguing that a private company would do better than PREPA, one of the two largest public power utilities in the United States. While PREPA is in bankruptcy — it is $9 billion in debt — Puerto Rico is paying the new company a fixed annual fee of $115 million.” 

After reading this truth, my heart broke, part of the pain of leaving Puerto Rico in search of opportunities is seeing my family experiencing these blackouts. All the while, I am living in the country that is exploiting them. An annual fee of $115 million is being paid to a company that is not providing any measurements for Puerto Ricans to get a basic resource, electricity. Not only that, in the article it explains that not only has LUMA not done anything to fix these issues but also with LUMA the issue has worsened. Puerto Ricans are being exploited to such an extent by this company that they are living as if a hurricane hit the island, resorting to buying ice and coolers to preserve their food, and utilizing candles and flashlights to see in the dark. 

            This capitalistic disaster happening in my homeland is the reason why both Marx and Engels believed that the bourgeois is unfit to rule. The globalization of produce has in fact obliged Puerto Rico, a US colony, to live after the image established by the bourgeois. But because the image of the bourgeois (in this case LUMA) does not understand the needs of the Puerto Rican people they ignore it and resort on capital for their own gain. LUMA is unfit to rule over the electric system established in Puerto Rico. This truth leaves Puerto Ricans in despair. However, just as Marx and Engels explained in the Communist Manifesto the bourgeoisie are their own gravediggers. Puerto Ricans are uniting and fighting against the injustices committed against them. Just as it explains in the manifesto, Puerto Rican citizens who have been educated and are very well versed in U.S. politics have gained an upper hand and began utilizing the weapons taught by the bourgeoise against them. In this enchanting island its people are no longer passive, they know their rights, and they are uniting to fight for their freedom, resources, and livelihood. 

Work Cited 

“About the Committee: The House Committee on Natural Resources.” Natural Resources Committee, 

Barlow, Rich. “Puerto Rico Debt Crisis: America’s Greece?: Bu Today.” Boston University, 1 Sept. 2015, 

de Onís, Catalina M., and Hilda Lloréns. “‘Fuera Luma’: Puerto Rico Confronts Neoliberal Electricity System Takeover amid Ongoing Struggles for Self-Determination.” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, 20 June 2021, 

“Disaster Capitalism: Puerto Rico Plunged into Darkness after Privatization of Electric Utility.” Democracy Now!, 

“Frequently Asked Questions.” Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, 9 July 2021, 

Mazzei, Patricia. “’Why Don’t We Have Electricity?’: Outages Plague Puerto Rico.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2021, 

Primera Hora. “Alcalde De Ponce Señala Problemas Con Vuelos En Aeropuerto Mercedita Por Falta De Luz.” Primera Hora, Primera Hora, 23 Oct. 2021, 

“The Transformation of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA): The House 

Committee on Natural Resources.” Natural Resources Committee, 23 July 2020, 3:30pm,

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