More than half a million Mexicans are without power after the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) cut their service for not paying their bills.
Across the country, 543,128 customers didn’t pay their electric bills that were due May 12.
Most of those cut off were customers in México state, Mexico City, Jalisco, Michoacán, Puebla and Guerrero.
CFE director Manuel Bartlett had warned that there would be no deferrals or forgiveness of electricity debt incurred during the coronavirus pandemic, pointing out that the CFE still had to meet a payroll for some 90,000 workers as well as other expenses to keep the federal utility up and running.
Power consumers have noted a considerable uptick in their bimonthly bills due to stay-at-home measures enacted late last March, as people remaining in their homes tend to use electrical appliances more.
One CFE customer reported his regular 400-peso (US $18) electric bill jumped to 1,500 pesos (US $67) due to self-isolation measures.
This has caused protests in various parts of the country, where citizens are asking the federal government to suspend power cuts due to non-payment during the health and economic crisis.
In Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán, residents first petitioned the CFE to defer payments in early May and received no response, so they protested outside the electric utility’s office on Wednesday, as citizens did in 10 communities across the state
“At no time have we said that we do not want to pay,” said local activist Moisés Hernández Lozano. “We want them not to cut it off and in some way charge us later or find an alternative but not cut it.”
In Morelia, Michoacán, politicians are lobbying the CFE to allow households and agricultural businesses to defer payments for 12 months, free of interest and surcharges.
“There are sick people, there are people who do not have money to pay, and we are not asking that it not be paid, what we are asking is that the payment be deferred, that there be no reconnection costs or fines and that cuts be avoided,” said federal Deputy Armando Tejeda Cid.
The CFE’s policy is in line with that of the federal government with regard to the payment of taxes. President López Obrador has repeatedly insisted that there would be no deferrals or tax breaks during the coronavirus emergency.