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Peru: Controversy Ahead of Lima's Recall Referendum

The recall referendum to revoke municipal authorities in the Lima Metropolitan Area [es] will be held on Sunday, March 17, 2013. In this respect, although the Yes and No options seemed to be tied a couple [es] of weeks ago, last surveys [es] show the Yes is ahead of the No by 8%. Therefore, the scenario has changed a little bit when compared to the previous post we published on the revocation.

According to these survey results, mayor Susana Villarán would probably be revoked, although there is not enough information on whether the municipal council will have the same results. It seems that a recent bridge collapse [es] in Lima has further damaged Villarán's reputation, just like it happened last month with a flood [es] in the road construction project La Via Parque Rímac. Moreover, frequent improper [es] declarations by supporters of the revocation have hindered the Yes from gaining more popularity.

Journalist Martin Hidalgo comments [es] on both campaigns in a post for Sesión de Control:

Y mientras los del No siguen lanzando spots de entrevistas con líderes políticos que apoyan su causa, los del Sí preparan gráficas acusando a Villarán de esconderse tras los artistas que apoyan su campaña, para defender su gestión. [...] Los del No, más allá del volanteo, no han tenido mayor éxito después de la viralización de los memes. La semana pasada publicaron, a través de la página La Mula, un mensaje de Joaquin Sabina. Algo que terminó opacado por una adaptación del ya viral Harlem Shake que sacaron los del Sí.

While the No supporters keep broadcasting advertising spots of interviews with political leaders backing them, Yes supporters prepare drawings accusing Villarán of hiding behind the artists who support her campaign, just to defend her administration [...] No supporters, besides handing out leaflets, have not been successful after their memes became viral. Last week they published, through La Mula website, a message by Joaquin Sabina. This was eventually overshadowed by a version of the viral video Harlem Shake that the Yes campaign put out.

Susana Villarán. Foto de Cris R. Cossio bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Susana Villarán. Photo by Cris R. Cossio licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Nevertheless, many people wonder why the left, which has recently won several elections, is in this situation. The blogger Omar Cavero analyzes [es] the defeats of the Peruvian left over the last decades. When he analyses the present he asserts:

al aprobarse la consulta de revocatoria en Lima, nuestra izquierda, que no es resentida y sí es pragmática, considera que lo más estratégico es apoyar la gestión, cerrar filas con Villarán y adoptar su agenda. Como en los noventa y como en los dos mil, el enemigo al frente es el autoritarismo y la corrupción. ¿Cómo explicar más de dos décadas de crisis en la izquierda si siempre hicimos lo más “estratégico” en cada momento? [...] Sin identidad, el pragmatismo es suicida. El problema no es ser eficientes, ni saber negociar y ser tácticos. El problema es no saber qué somos ni a dónde vamos [...] Sin identidad no hay respuesta posible a estas preguntas: sólo queda andar a tientas en la coyuntura de turno, peleando por los cargos que se asomen.

When the recall referendum in Lima was approved, the left, which is not resentful, but pragmatic, considered that the strategy was supporting the administration, being in favor of Villarán and adopting her agenda. Just like it happened in the 90s and in the 2000s, the enemies we have to face are authoritarianism and corruption. How can we explain more than two decades of crisis in the left party if we always do what's most “strategic”? [...] Without identity, pragmatism kills itself. The problem is neither about being efficient, nor about knowing how to negotiate or plan. The problem is that we do not know what we are or where we are heading. [...] Without identity there is no answer to those questions: the only thing we have left is searching blindly with the administration in power, fighting for the positions that become available.

In another long post written for Ideele, Juan Carlos Ubillúz tries to find the reasons for this popularity decrease affecting mayor Villarán and he finds three mistakes: facing all groups in power at the same time, having a bad communication strategy and prioritizing ethics over politics. He asserts [es] about the second aspect:

Mientras todo un aparato mediático repetía con altavoces críticas a su gestión, la Municipalidad se demoraba en responder o no lo hacía con contundencia [...] Villarán cometió además un error mediático de corte posmoderno: privilegiar en su discurso las demandas culturalistas de la clase media ilustrada sobre las demandas populares. Y si bien las primeras no tienen por qué estar enemistadas con las segundas, lo que vio el pueblo en los primeros días de su gestión fue a una alcaldesa más preocupada por la marcha gay y por la estatua de Cristo que por emprender proyectos que atiendan sus necesidades básicas.

While everyone in the media was loudly and repeatedly criticizing her administration, the Municipality took a long time to respond or it did not give convincing statements […] Villarán also made a postmodern media mistake: prioritizing cultural demands of the illustrated  middle class over popular demands. Although the first don't have to necessarily clash with the latter, what the people saw in the first days of her administration was a mayor who was more concerned about the gay parade and Christ’s statue than starting projects that could meet their basic needs.

From a similar perspective, David Rivera del Aguila writes [es] in Poder 360°:

Pese a todos los errores técnicos y las metidas de pata políticas, en esta gestión se han iniciado una serie de transformaciones o reformas que resultan hoy más vitales que nunca, considerando la presión que ha comenzado a ejercer en diferentes ámbitos la acelerada expansión económica por la que atraviesa el país. Villarán asumió su mandato en un momento en que estas presiones, las expectativas sociales y la intolerancia de la derecha sectaria eran más altas que nunca, y no tuvo los reflejos políticos que ha tenido el gobierno de Ollanta Humala para hacer frente a una realidad que ha sido más crítica para el gobierno central.

In spite of all technical mistakes and political screw ups, this administration has started several transformations or reforms that happen to be more important than ever, if we consider the pressure the accelerated economic growth in this country has put on various areas. Villarán took office at a moment in which this tension, social expectations and right-party intolerance were higher than ever, and it did not have the same political answers that Ollanta Humala has had to face the most critical reality for the central government.

Dante Bobadilla Ramirez, from the blog Voz Liberal del Peru (Liberal Voice from Peru) also compares [es] Villarán's administration to President Humala's, but from another political perspective:

Si Ollanta Humala está cosechado altos niveles de aprobación se debe básicamente a que se apartó a tiempo de todo el lastre de la izquierda inútil. Ha respetado lo fundamental en el crecimiento del país y no ha creado sobresaltos. Gracias a esa conducta la economía sigue creciendo y su popularidad se mantiene. Por el contrario, Susana Villarán ingresó al Municipio tratando de imponer una nueva agenda progresista, dando vuelta y media al proceso de modernización de la ciudad iniciado hace tres gestiones atrás. Pretendió imponer una nueva escala de valores y de prioridades, donde primaba el gesto simbólico y la caricia social.

If Ollanta Humala is highly approved these days, it is because he basically withdrew himself on time from the useless left. He has respected what is important for the country's growth and he has not startled the population. Because of his behavior, the economy keeps growing and his popularity is maintained. Conversely, when Susana Villarán started her administration in the municipality, she strived to impose her new progressive agenda, ignoring all the modernization process that had been started three administrations before. She intended to impose new values and priorities, in which the main aspects were related to symbolic activities and social caresses.

In the blog Catarsis and Harakiri, Frank Kesleich reposts [es] an article by Ricardo Vasquez in which he provides his arguments against the No option in order to defend institutionalism:

Un “frente cívico”, le llama Mirko Lauer donde, como no podía ser de otra manera, los buenos y honestos ciudadanos [...] están por Lima y por Susana. Y donde los canallas, irresponsables o mañosos están del otro lado, con la barbarie. Unos son “ciudadanos”; los otros no. ¿Por qué? Muy simple. Porque no están con ellos ni creen lo que ellos. Esto es lo que me subleva profundamente. Así pues, hoy más que nunca, mi voto por el SÍ es un voto de protesta político e ideológico. No quiero la Lima que quiere la señora Villarán. [...] No quiero ser un ciudadano de segunda clase por no creer en lo que la “izquierda progresista” y su comparsa mediática creen. No quiero que me impongan el mal gusto de su corrección política. No quiero que me torturen con un pensamiento único. Y si la revocación me da la posibilidad INSTITUCIONAL –sí, señores institucionalistas, la revocación también es una institución política, ¿sabían?– de protestar por eso antes de que culmine su mandato, pues, protesto para que SÍ, se vaya.

A “civilian front”, Mirko Lauer calls it, and it couldn't be any other way, where good and honest citizens [...] are in favor of Lima and Susana. In this front, despicable and irresponsible people are on the other side, with barbarism. Some are seen as “citizens” while the others are not. Why? Plain and simple: They are not with them nor do they believe what they believe. This is what moves me towards total rebellion. Therefore, today, more than ever before, my vote favoring the Yes option represents a political and ideological protest. I don’t want the same Lima that Ms. Villarán wants. [...] I don’t want to be a second- class citizen just because I do not believe what the “progressive left” and its media show believes. I don’t want them to impose on me the bad tendencies regarding their political correctness. I do not want to be tortured with only one thought. And if revocation gives me the INSITUTIONAL possibility- yes, people, as you read it, institutional, revocation is also a political institution, did you know?- to protest before she finishes her government, well, then I protest favoring YES, so she can leave this administration.

On Sunday night, March 10, after many affirmations [es] and denials [es], a debate [es] was held between Yes and No supporters, which was organized by “Voto Informado” (Informed Vote) from the National Jury of Elections (JNE). Nevertheless, the event did not turn out as expected and citizens were tweeting about the terrible role played by the people representing each option, since all of them were reading instead of speaking directly to the audience. However, that was not the worst: after the two first parts of the debate there were no more Yes representatives present, therefore, the No representatives were debating against no one. In this link [es] you can find some of the tweets posted that night.

Tomorrow we will see if the bad image [es] left behind by the supporters of the Yes during the debate will affect electoral results.

Original post in Spanish published on Juan Arellano's blog Globalizado [es] on March 11, 2013.

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