Small Colombia Airport Shut Due To Protests Over Electricity

BOGOTA -(Dow Jones)- A small airport in southern Colombia used by the military remains shut for a second day Wednesday after 1,000 local residents stormed the runway to protest their town’s patchy access to electricity.

Some 5,000 residents of La Macarena, a town at the southern tip of the state of Meta, have struggled with little or no electricity for years and in 2011 have made do with power for five hours a day, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. For the past week, there has been no electricity at all for many residents, apparently due to a payment dispute between local energy provider Emserva and the Mining and Energy Ministry.

“The community is tired of bad public services and a general absence of electricity,” the town’s mayor, Eliecer Vargas, told local La FM radio. “They’ve been hearing promises for six years and nothing ever happens, which is why they decided to do this peaceful protest.”

Officials from the Mining and Energy Ministry weren’t immediately available for comment.

The town mayor said the protesters slept on the airport’s runway overnight Tuesday and are not allowing any airplanes to arrive or leave, including two of the military’s Hercules C-130 transport planes parked there.

The protesters will remain until Colombia Vice President Angelino Garzon or another top central government official agrees to meet with them, Vargas said.

Colombia lags behind other parts of Latin America when it comes to providing electricity to its residents. Nearly 2 million of its 46 million people have little or no access to electricity, according to a Council of the Americas 2010 report.
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