“The referendum on the 17th of March is really a referendum over whether a woman with new ideas and a new vision for a Lima with a human face is possible or not.”
Susana Villaran, the first woman elected mayor of the Metropolitan district of Lima, has to face a process of repeal which has divided both the city – the Yes and the No campaigns – and the whole national political spectrum, in two.
The campaigns are underway for those in favour of or opposed to the repeal, around which the political parties, trade unions and grassroots organisations are taking sides.
On the 17th of March they will decide if Susana Villaran will continue as mayor or not.
The referendum will take place in Lima, the capital city, which is home to more than a third – some 8.5 million – of the national population, and is the centre of an ever growing internal migration.
Lima reflects the reality of all Peru, it is a kaleidoscope of races, diverse cultures and also exhibits the extreme poverty that can be found in human settlements, with 60% of all the tuberculosis sufferers in Peru, poor health, anarchy, social exclusion and racism.
Villaran fell victim, from her very first day at the helm, in 2010, to an incessant attack by the right-wing press ignoring her efforts to transform Lima into an inclusive and modern city.
The referendum on the 17th of March is really a referendum over whether a woman with new ideas and a new vision for a Lima with a human aspect is practicable or not. It’s over whether efficient management and transparency can be made compatible. Susana has made it quite clear that “I may err, but not steal”.
Susana has also had to confront the mafias of the wholesalers and merchants such as those in the Parada, or the transport mafias, who have harassed the mayor with boycotts and strikes.
Villaran has said: “I have an ethical commitment… we are not going to misuse resources, we will make everything transparent, the fight against corruption is fundamental”.
The other person who wants to oust Susana Villaran is the former president Alan Garcia, whose first government was considered the most corrupt in the history of Peru, with the second term plagued by widely discussed cases of corruption. Garcia is now awaiting an investigation in Congress to clarify the source of his personal wealth.
Susana Villaran, who defines herself as belonging to the ‘liberal left’, is no newcomer. She worked alongside Barrantes, the first socialist mayor of Lima, in 1983 on the program “A glass of milk”. She worked for the UN and the Latin American Commission for Human Rights in defence of the rights of the mother and child. In 2001 she was made minister for Women and Social Development during the government of Valentin Paniagua.
After an earlier disadvantage in the polls, the No campaign is day by day gaining the support of celebrities, artists, citizens, youth groups, left wing parties and other liberals, and is beginning to fare more favourably.
Susana has made clear her “preferential option for the poor” and that her mission as mayor is tied to her role as a woman in charge of the metropolitan government.
In her own words: “they want women to become masculine and they put us in that box, that we forget tenderness, affection, dialogue and harmony”.
(Translated by Thomas Andrew Wright – email@example.com)