So What’s It Like To Run A City With No Electricity?

There is life after CFE cuts you off

BY JORGE A. RUIZ-ESPARZA

Just about a month has passed since the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE in Spanish) cut off the electricity at City Hall in the state capital of La Paz. Snap! 10:00 in the morning, it was lights out. They borrowed a generator from the water department to run the entire city.

Since then they got the lights back on, the situation is all hush hush, and yet the debt is far from gone. The new administration, run by the Morena party that swept the elections, is desperately working on a solution and mutual agreement.

La Paz’s new city mayor, Rubén Muñoz, has inherited a debt of $900,000 U.S.

Muñoz has pointed out the incongruity in holding him and his administrative responsible for such a large amount of money; a debt that has been steadily building up from the last two administrations when the Pan party had control of the municipality under Esthela Ponce, and then Monroy Sánchez, then Armando Martínez.

“You receive a debt like this, and just three weeks into our administration, it’s a bit absurd that they cut our electricity,” he whined on the day of the big snip. To make things worse,  additional fees and penalties have been added on to that debt with the start of the month in which Muñoz took oath. That makes for a whooping one and a half million dollar debt that Muñoz won’t be able to escape from.

The unexpected power outage served as a major heads-up, filled with unease and overall worry, especially after a maintenance worker was trapped inside the building’s main elevator right when the power was cut off. Hey, how about a heads up, here!

The city used the borrowed generator for the remainder of the day and the day after, with fuel being the only expenditure and its presence becoming a sight to behold behind the building.

While the city was still on generator, Mayor Muñoz hastily flew to Mexico City to pow wow with the federal power utility in order to restore the power and establish a payment plan with CFE. A payment agreement was made, the lights turned back on, and without releasing official numbers nor any other detailed information, the immediate crisis seems to be over.

City Hall’s general secretary Alejandro Mota, insists that with the income the city currently receives, it is nearly impossible to ever pay it off. That money is still owed and the task of paying it off and sparked leaked rumors about plans concerning possible tax raises on public street lighting, something that would affect everyone. The possibility of installing parking meters in the city center also caused commotion among the general public.

This would, after all, help wrestle the city’s debt, though due to the public’s negative reaction, Muñoz’s cabinet recently backed down on the lighting tax and parking meters. They reassured the public by stating that both projects were put on ice, but what about the debt? As long as CFE hasn’t received the colossal amount of money it demands, Muñoz and his cabinet will still be placed under constant pressure.