I arrived in Masaya on Monday evening, and have since been working on a website for the Consumers Defense Association of Masaya (ACODEMA). You can read about their work in earlier entries: Consumer Rights & Their Violation, and Miceofinance: Why it (Sometimes) Just Doesn´t Work.
Roger Lecayo, the President of ACODEMA, met me at the bus and showed me around Masaya. Everyone knew him and greeted him cordially as we passed. When we went to dinner and tried to pay the check, the owner refused to charge him. I got a discount at my hostel for being affiliated with the organization.
Masaya is a lovely city, and has an aesthetic character somewhat like that of Estelí: small and charming, but still a city. It´s charming, friendly, and colorful. However, it isn´t otherwise much like Estelí. In two days here, I´ve met more anti-Sandinistas than I ever could have imagined existed in the whole country, and have seen more street children sniffing glue than there were shoeless kids in all of Estelí.
On Tuesday I arrived at the ACODEMA office preceeded by about twenty citizens seeking help to present their claims against Unión Fenosa, the Spanish company that is the sole distributor of electricity in Nicatagua.
One woman had been billed in June for three times as much electricity as she had used in the preceeding months of this year. She had apparently not acquired any new appliances, nor had she used her existing appliances more than usual.
Another women had arranged a payment schedule with Unión Fenosa previously, but the payment schedule that the company had agreed upon was not honored, and her electricity had been cut. There were as many other complaints as there were poeple in the ACODEMA office, and we all went to Unión Fenosa to get it straightened out.
We waited for 30 minutes before anyone saw us. Roger went into the office with each of the distressed customers individually to give them support and representation in presenting their claim. All were resolved.
¨That seemed easy enough,¨ I said.
¨They respond to ACODEMA representatives,¨ he explained. ¨They know we know our rights and we won´t allow them to be violated. When people contact Unión Fenosa they simply don´t respond. So we go with them and demand a response. And nine out of ten times we win, because their claims are well-founded.¨
I understood, suddenly, why Roger and other ACODEMA staff are so popular in Masaya.