The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has agreed to cancel the debt of more than 600,000 customers in Tabasco.
Governor Adán López announced on Twitter on Tuesday that his government had signed an agreement with the CFE that eliminates the debt of 607,165 customers, some of whom haven’t paid their power bills for a quarter of a century.
He also said the CFE had agreed to charge non-business customers in Tabasco at its lowest rate throughout the entire year.
“I thank the president of the republic, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, for his invaluable support to achieve the long-held desire of tabasqueños [and] the general director of the CFE, Manuel Bartlett, for his … support for the signing of this agreement. Tabasco, it’s your time!” López wrote.
After losing an election for governor of Tabasco in 1994, López Obrador, a native of the Gulf coast state, launched a civil resistance movement and called on his supporters to stop paying their CFE bills as part of a protest against alleged electoral fraud and the state-owned utility’s allegedly high power prices.
Hundreds of thousands of Tabasco residents obliged and didn’t pay their electricity bills for the next 25 years.
Governor López, who represents López Obrador’s Morena party, announced a scheme in May 2019 in which CFE customers with large debts they wished to wipe clean could go to a CFE office and enter into a new billing arrangement.
The offer applied to more than 520,000 customers who owed 11 billion pesos, or US $578 million at the time.
However, hundreds of thousands of people with debts didn’t subscribe to the “Goodbye to Your Debt” deal and simply continued to ignore their power bills.
López said the coronavirus pandemic and severe flooding in Tabasco were factors that contributed to the limited uptake of the offer. Instead of requiring customers to go to a CFE office and explicitly state they wanted their debt to be canceled, the government stepped in on their behalf and signed a deal with the state-owned power commission that eliminated that requirement.
“Starting today [Tuesday], the historic debt [of Tabasco customers] completely disappears without conditions,” said CFE communications director Luis Fernando Bravo.
He added that “all the household customers in Tabasco, except high-consumption ones,” will automatically be switched to the commission’s 1F rate within 72 hours.
However, whether the more than half a million customers who are now free of their longstanding debts will suddenly change their ways and pay their electricity bills remains to be seen.