Puerto Rico governor announces privatization of power utility

36% still without power four months after Maria

By TAYLOR BARNES AND MARILIA BROCCHETTO, CNN
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ricardo Rossello

(CNN) - Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced Monday that the commonwealth will begin privatizing the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA.

In comments published on Twitter, the governor said the assets sale would transform the island's power generation system into a "modern" and "efficient" one that would be less expensive for citizens.

He said the system operates "deficiently" and that the improved infrastructure would respond more "agilely" to natural disasters. The privatization process will begin "in the next few days" and occur in three phases over the next 18 months, the governor said.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, known for her criticisms of the Trump administration's response to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, spoke out against the move.

Cruz, writing on her official Twitter account, said PREPA's privatization would put the commonwealth's economic development into "private hands" and that the power authority will begin to "serve other interests."

She said there was a "clear" strategy to "create chaos at a time when citizens are in need in order to sell something as positive that will be negative in the long run."

According to the most recent report from the US Department of Energy, some 36% of PREPA customers are still without power four months after Maria caused widespread devastation on the island.

The government, at times, was not sure how much power had been restored.

The leader of PREPA resigned in November, days after the island's governor declared that power generation had reached 50% capacity, only to see an outage leave parts of San Juan without power for hours. It was the second outage in as many weeks.

Puerto Rico also signed and then canceled a $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy, a small Montana firm that was supposed to help with restoration efforts.

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