Lima Mayor Villaran’s Recall Referendum Scheduled for March 17

Peru’s National Elections Board, JNE, announced Wednesday that a recall referendum against Lima’s mayor Susana Villaran is to be held March 17, daily El Comercio reported.

The vote will also be for 39 city councilors, El Comercio said.

In October, opponents of Mayor Villaran submitted a final lot of signatures to Peru’s election authorities calling for a recall.  The movement had initially gathered over 400,000 signatures but a very high number were forged or repeated, and although a final replacement lot of signatures was handed in after the deadline set by the national identity registry, Reniec, the JNE ruled that the latest signatures were accepted without need of validation.

The JNE’s ruling has been heavily criticized by political analysts and jurists.  Greta Minaya, a former member of the JNE panel of judges, called the JNE decision “irregular and scandalous”  given that the president of the board, Hugo Sivina, had participated in the unanimous vote to accept the signatures, despite the fact that the Lima Municipality had filed a motion to recuse Sivina from the case because he had already publicly expressed his opinion in favor of the recall.

Villaran won a 2010 mayoral election by coming from behind to defeat prominent politician Lourdes Flores. However, Villaran has been heavily criticized even since before she took office, and today her popularity ranks around 20 percent to 25 percent.

Leading political analysts believe the campaign against Villaran has been led behind the scenes by Lima’s previous mayor, Luis Castañeda, since people close to him have financed and led the recall move and congressional members of his party have openly supported the campaign.

In the tradition of previous mayors, and of Castañeda himself when he was first elected, Villaran called for an audit of the previous administration when she first took office in January 2011. She was critical of Castañeda’s eight-year administration of the city and after the audit ordered a formal investigation into allegations of corruption.

The mayor of Lima is considered one of Peru’s most important political positions.

Lima’s deputy mayor, Eduardo Zegarra, said that supporters of Villaran are preparing a “hard fight” against the recall.

“The recall is going to fail,” he said. “We are going to have not only a legitimate mayor, but one that is much better positioned to continue the work that all of Lima has assigned to her.”

Zegarra claims there are dark political interests behind the push to remove Villaran from office, an opinion shared by former President Alejandro Toledo’s politial party, Peru Posible, which has issued a statement saying that the recall campaign is politically motivated to stop the moralization campaign that Villaran is leading in the municipal government.

Villaran has faced stiff opposition to many of her reforms, including efforts to regulate informality in Lima’s transit system —bus company owners opposing her plans have called eight city-wide transport strikes since the start of her administration last year.

More recently, an effort to move Lima’s only wholesale market to a new and safer location was met with riots and clashes with police that led to four deaths. Some analysts claim the riots were organized by criminal groups, and the Ministry of Interior has stated that the men leading the riots had been hired for the job.

Villaran’s eventual success with the move of the wholesale market has led to a growing number of district mayors speaking in her favor.  The mayor of upscale La Molina, Juan Carlos Zurek, said “She has chosen not to be Miss Congeniality” and to face the city’s problems head-on. Several other mayors, including those of  the lower-income districts of Villa El Salvador and Villa Maria del Triunfo, have also expressed their full support.

Meanwhile, Lourdes Flores, who fought a bitter battle against Villarán for the mayoralty, said this week she will vote against the recall, as has the founder of her political party, Luis Bedoya Reyes. “What an idea! I wouldn’t vote to recall Susana Villarán, ” Bedoya said in an interview with La Republica.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *