Villarán for mayor of Lima

Most voters have probably already made up their minds who they will cast their ballot for in the Lima mayoral election on Sunday, and the debate held last night between the two front runners will have done little to change that.

The final polls published this past weekend showed Susana Villarán of the center-left Fuerza Social with a 10-point lead over conservative Lourdes Flores of PPC-Unidad Nacional.

The face-off between Villarán and Flores left analysts describing the event in boxing metaphors, following Flores’ negative frontal attacks against Villarán during the better part of the debate.

Instead of focusing on the issues that matter to the majority of Lima residents: good governance, citizen safety, transportation, the environment and social projects, Flores’ main message was that Villarán, if elected, would preside over disorder and chaos because of “partners and allies” in Peru’s radical left-wing parties.

She accused Villarán of hiding information about personal real estate holdings and landed a particularly low blow by alleging that Villarán spoke in favor of the Shining Path guerrilla insurgency during a 2003 meeting in London with the Peru Support Group* and at another meeting in Venice.

Villarán did not respond to the real estate allegation, which she explained on a TV program, but denied having been in Venice or of ever supporting violence, at home or, more importantly, abroad. Throughout the debate, she stuck to general descriptions of her program and refused to enter the fray, often repeating her slogan of “hope will conquer fear.”

Flores has much to lose in this election.  A seasoned politician, lawyer, ex-member of Congress, town councilwoman, and two-time presidential candidate (2001 and 2006), if she loses this race for the mayoralty, her future chances of any leading political position are close to nil and her Popular Christian Party, PPC, will be seriously weakened.

Since Villarán’s meteoric rise from 4 percent in the polls in August to more than 40 percent a week ahead of the ballot, the big guns have been rolled out to defend Flores. Words of support have come from President García, economist Pedro Pablo Kucsynski and several newspapers and radio and TV stations.

The thrust of the message has been to rustle up fear and even panic against the socialist Villarán and her team.

By joining the chorus of fear-mongering, Flores has done a disservice to her own record as a former opposition congresswoman during the authoritarian Fujimori government of the 1990s, when she reached across the ideological divide to defend Peru’s democracy and oppose a corruption-riddled regime.

An effective lawmaker, Flores sponsored legislation against domestic violence, promoted DNA testing in paternity cases and pushed through a 25 percent quota for female candidates in municipal and legislative elections. Notably, when she made her first bid for president, she chose as her running mate ex-Congressman Jose Luis Risco, a communist trade union leader.

Flores herself has been attacked, with questions about her acting as attorney to an alleged drug runner and money launderer, César Cataño, and of being president of his airline. Additionally, the release of illegally phone-tapped conversations did not show her in the best light.

Her inability to hold first place in the polls, and a public perception of her as the “business as usual” candidate are what led her to lose the two presidential races. Until recently, when her government plan was printed and distributed, her message was more focused on national rather than local policies.

Villarán, on the other hand, does not use political rhetoric and, therefore, brings a fresh change. She is known for striving for dialog, consensus and decisions in a democratic environment and has promised transparency in all city decisions and finance, and open city council meetings.

A presidential candidate in 2006, Villarán was Minister of Women during the Paniagua transitional government in 2001 when she set up the negotiation space for the Fight against Povery and a national program to combat family and sexual violence. She was the first national police ombudsman, during the Toledo administration, and is also comfortable with grassroots organizations, having been a founder of the Glass of Milk program under Lima’s socialist Mayor Alfonso Barrantes (1984-1987).

Villarán is also a member of the Advisory Committee of the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the Washington College of Law, American University, Washington, DC; a member of the Advisory Committee in USAID’s Management Science for Development program in Colombia; president of the Citizen Security Institute, Lima; and consultant to a number of international and local organizations including USAID, the UN High Commission on Human Rights, Peru’s Legal Defense Institute, regional governments, and the Master’s program in Politics at Peru’s Catholic University.

Last year she was elected to the 18-member UN Children’s Rights Committee during the General Assembly.

Villarán’s team of advisors and technocrats carry similarly high credentials, including in city planning and government. A prominent advisor is architect Augusto Ortiz de Zevallos, who has worked with different city administrations and is a key player in saving the ocean front Costa Verde for recreational space.

Hope does not always conquer fear. But Susana Villarán’s focus on good government policy, democratic ideals and grass roots organization does give Lima’s bustling populace something to be excited and hopeful about. That is why Peruvian Times believes she should be Lima’s next mayor.

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*London-based The Peru Support Group , founded in 1983, is an apolitical organization focused on finding solutions to poverty and development and is chaired by Lord Avebury, a well-known human rights advocate. Its members include several members of Parliament, prize-winning journalist Hugh O’Shaughnessy, and political and economic analysts Professor William Rowe of the University of London and Rosemary Thorp CBE of St. Antony’s College, Oxford.

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2 Comments

  1. Diego Cánovas says:

    Susana has not established a safe distance between her a many Peruvian Communist Party Members and former MRTA militants. I think this will seriously damage her political future.

    I would like to have Peruvian Times `s contact e-mail so I can send you interesting sports and entertainment content.

    thanks

  2. Richard Rodriguez says:

    Your happy endorsement makes one wonder about who Peruvian Times really is? How your media outlet can support a proven tax cheat – fully disclosed on last night’s 24 Horas news show – is a mystery. The financial irregularities of Villaran’s SUNAT and Equifax documents as shown in that news segment were clear and compelling. Something is very fishy with this woman and she appears to live way above her reported means of income. She appears to be equally as bad, maybe worse than Flores.

    Endorsing a candidate with ties to terrorists, who cheats on her taxes, who advocates gay marriages and the legalization of marijuana further calls into question Peruvian Times vetting process and its own ideology.

    Fortunately, Peruvian Times does not have any clout to persuade voters one iota and your endorsement has little if any value.

    Richard Rodriguez
    Lima

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