No alliances will be made with Lima Mayor Castañeda for upcoming 2011 presidential elections, says Simon

Former premier and head of the Peruvian Humanist Movement Yehude Simon said Friday that his party would not be making any alliances with the “authoritarian” Lima Mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio for the upcoming 2011 presidential elections.

“We have a different vision,” said Simon, who compared Castañeda’s style to that of Ollanta Humala, head of Peru’s Nationalist Party, and that of Keiko Fujimori, the probable candidate for Fujimori’s right-wing party “Fuerza 2011.”

“I could not go about chopping down trees, and then saying “that I felt like cutting them down.” I am not authoritarian,” said Simon in comments to Panamericana Television. “Castañeda was democratically elected but he doesn’t communicate, and makes decisions without consulting his team. That is not my style.”

On Au. 4, 2009, more than 40 Municipality of Lima workers backed by 100 armed policemen cut down 130 trees in Lima’s district of Chorrillos. Local residents – surprised by the sound of chainsaws – tried to protest, but were held back, or even physically assaulted, by police.

According to Castañeda, the trees were cut down as part of the Matellini Transport Terminal construction efforts and would be replaced in a massive tree planting campaign later this year. The terminal is to connect Lima’s Cono Norte and Cono Sur.

Simon, who recently turned down an offer to be Peru’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, OAS, in Washington, D.C., also rejected the idea of making a political alliance with former President Alejandro Toledo, or with Father Marco Arana, leader of Peru’s Earth and Liberty Movement.

Simon’s Peruvian Humanist Movement has a national campaign platform that will focus on strengthening agriculture and agro-industry as the main engine driving the economy, without disregarding other industries such as mining.

A congressman in the 1980s for the now defunct Izquierda Unida, and later a founder of Patria Libre, Simon was accused in 1992 during President Alberto Fujimori’s government of justifying terrorism and was convicted to 20 years’ imprisonment. Amnesty International and local human rights groups worked in his defense and he was released after 8 ½ years with a pardon granted by transitional President Valentín Paniagua. Although not ideal, the pardon was the legal instrument used by the transitional government to obtain a speedy release for more than 300 prisoners who had been unjustly charged and sentenced by a military court between 1990 and 2000. Later, President Alejandro Toledo offered a public apology to Simon for the grave injustice.

In 2002, Simon was elected regional president for Lambayeque, once a stronghold of President Garcia’s Apra party, and was reelected in 2006. In October 2008, he was appointed premier as an independent to offset a cabinet crisis related to Apra members involved in corruption charges on oil contracts.

Heading the cabinet for nine months, which included several difficult situations and the deadly Bagua clash, has weakened his approval rating in the polls. Simon was succeeded by the former president of Congress, Javier Velasquez Quesquén, when García replaced seven of 16 ministers following months of protests.

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