Cristo del Pacifico draws criticism from several fronts

A 37-meter tall statute of Jesus Christ that President Alan Garcia is planning to perch on Lima’s seafront to overlook the Pacific Ocean is drawing criticism from municipal authorities as well as citizens.

The “Cristo del Pacifico” – a replica of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro – is to be inaugurated June 29 on the Morro Solar in Lima’s Chorrillo’s district, daily La Republica reported.

 The statue, to cost around S/.5 million ( more than $1.5 million), is being built with corporate donations, including around $836,000 from the non-profit Odebrecht association for Sustainable Development and Conservation, of the giant Brazilian construction firm Norbert Odebrecht, and  with 100,000 soles ($36,218)  from President Alan Garcia’s personal savings.

Odebrecht currently has several ongoing projects in Peru, including sections 3 and 4 of the Inter-Oceanic Highway, the infrastructure for Lima’s electric train system, the Olmos irrigation project, the Chaglla hydroelectric project in Huanuco, and the broadening of the entry to the port of Callao. 

“My dream was always to build on the Morro a Christ similar to the one at Corcovado, which I have called the Christ of the Pacific,” Garcia said, adding, “I want it to be a figure that blesses Peru and protects Lima.”

The statue will be highlighted at night with a play of 26 different colors of lights. Maintenance costs, to be covered by the Municipality of Chorrillos, will be approximately S/.30,000 per year. 

During his previous administration, in 1988, Garcia ordered the construction of a large cross on the same hill, to welcome back Pope John Paul II on his second visit.

This new project is “a surprise that he wants to give before finalizing his government,” according to Juan Ossio, the minister of Culture. 

The surprise hasn’t been welcomed by all, including architects, urban planners and historians.  Critics on Facebook and bloggers on several websites –planning a protest march on June 24– are calling the project the Cristo del Gordo Vago, playing on the name Corcovado and Garcia’s overweight.

 Lima Mayor Susana Villaran, who had not been consulted or advised of the project, said, “I don’t know what the reason is that we have to invade our coastal space and Lima’s bay with a statue of these dimensions.”

“I don’t want to create a useless controversy over the topic, but I think that first there should be consultation, before doing something,” she added.  Generally, projects of this nature require a public bid process approved by urban planners and architects.

Prime Minsiter Rosario Fernandez defended the President’s project, saying that he could do what he liked with his own money. She also said the project had all the requisite technical studies and permits, and that it did not need the Lima mayor’s permission since it was authorized by the mayor of Chorrillos, Augusto Miyashiro.

The Chorrillos mayor has his own controversial projects, however. A plan to build 14 water fountains along the oceanfront Malecon Grau overlooking the bay was successfully blocked by neighbors and a court order requires that he restore the walk and a neighboring park to their original design or vacate his position as mayor.  Miyashiro, who only receives his constituents between 5m and 7am, refused to show plans or a scale model of the project to neighbors, the press or even the National Culture Institute (now the Ministry of Culture). 

In May this year, President Garcia bestowed the Order of the Grand Cross to Miyashiro in recognition of his “selfless work to improve the standard of living in his district and dialogue with the citizenry.”

Garcia, barred from running for a second consecutive term, will be handing over the administration to President-elect Ollanta Humala in seven weeks’ time. He has said he plans to campaign for the presidency again in 2016.

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