Cuernavaca is not the first Mexican municipality to have its electricity cut off for not paying the bill, but it is probably one of the largest.
The municipality’s water department owes close to 88 million pesos (US $6.24 million) to the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), which began cutting the power April 6, leaving parts of the city without running water.
Some 28 pumps managed by Sapac, as the water department is called, were put out of commission, affecting several neighborhoods including the city’s historic center and the hotels and restaurants located there.
Many residents have been without water service for more than 29 days, with no alternative but to purchase water at 800 pesos a truck load to fill cisterns. Forty-seven neighborhoods have been affected.
Twelve of the municipality’s wells are served by diesel-powered pumps but they are barely coping with the demand.
In a statement, the CFE said 75% of the multi-million-peso debt has been incurred during the administration of Mayor Cuauhtémoc Blanco Bravo, who took office in January last year. The remainder corresponds to previous administrations.
“Since the beginning of this administration three agreements have been signed to cover the debt, but since all have been breached we proceeded to cut the power to the pumping facilities,” the statement said.
In a tweet, Sapac blamed the state administration.
“The lack of water in the center of Cuernavaca is the result of a leak caused by a public works project of the government of Morelos. We’re working to resolve the issue,” wrote the city’s water department.
Sapac also reported that a new agreement had been reached with the CFE, establishing a schedule “to pay the historic debt inherited from past administrations . . . which at the start of this administration was 27 million pesos.”
Sapac chief José Pérez Torres also reported that the total amount of the debt will be reviewed due to a discrepancy in tariffs.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that Blanco took office last September.