A move by the Belize Electricity Limited to clamp down on the illegal sale of electricity by some residents, to others who have no connection to BEL lines, has caused great distress and consternation to those affected in the area of the city known as Belama Phase 4.
Belama Phase 4 was created because of the success of Belama Phases 1, 2, and 3, in the outskirts of Belize City.
But something went very wrong. People, mostly Hispanics, over the last 10 years or so, had begun squatting in the swamplands that would eventually become known as Belama Phase 4, long before any formal survey had taken place.
A number of lots were filled by dredging last year, but apart from there being no running water in Belama Phase 4, there are also no lamp posts for Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) to properly connect power to the majority of the homes in what has turned out to be a sprawling area of poorly constructed homes – homes built out of necessity.
Because BEL has not invested in lamp posts (a spokesperson told us tonight that lamp posts are considered “infrastructure,” and as such is a GOB expense), only a few persons in the area were able to have BEL connect power to them. And as more people moved into the area, the need for electricity took on a new urgency.
This need helped to bring into reality the “electricity pirates.” The few people who had legitimate accounts with BEL began to connect their neighbors – for a fee – and the fee varies from home to home. BEL found out about it, however, and decided to literally pull the plug.
Margarita Cobarruvias, 29, told Amandala that she has lived in the area for the past year and that her street has no name. Her family of three was able to get electricity by depositing $40 with “a man,” whose name they say they don’t know. The Cobarruvias family’s light bill, which is not paid to BEL, is $35.00 per month.
Cobarruvias told Amandala that about sixteen other persons receive electricity from the same source that she does. But that has changed. For the past two weeks these people have been living in the dark, because BEL has disconnected their electricity at its source.
As a matter of fact, the area does not have any “street” lights. The only light present at night comes from the lights that are on in people’s homes, and the electricity lines from “seller to buyer” criss-cross the houses the way Christmas tree lights are spread over the tree.
Matilda Perez, 39, has been living in the area for the past five years. Perez said that she did not have electricity for a very long time. But two years ago, she got plugged into a source of electricity from another man, and for $50 per month, she and her family of four others enjoyed the benefits of electricity.
But one month ago, BEL disconnected her power.
Mercy Jimenez, 43, did not have to fork out $50 per month for her light bill. Electricity only cost Jimenez $15 per month.
Without warning, however, Jimenez’ lights went out two weeks ago.