Postcard from... Lima

 

Another step forward for Peru's fragile democracy, still recovering from President Alberto Fujimori's mass larceny and crimes against humanity in the 1990s.

That is how most commentators here are interpreting the result of Sunday's recall election of Lima's first female mayor, Susana Villaran, a moderate leftist and former human rights campaigner. According to exit polls, she narrowly beat off the recall, launched after just two years in office during which she has rolled up her sleeves and taken on entrenched municipal corruption and the related Gordian knot of Lima's catastrophic public transport system, possibly the worst in the Americas.

Using a poorly drafted law aimed at corrupt officials, a shadowy group of characters, including the former mayor Luis Castaned, launched the recall late last year with a nebulous series of complaints, claiming Ms Villaran was "doing nothing" while in office. Nicknamed "the mute" for his dislike of public statements, Mr Castaneda and his cohorts stand accused of profiting from backroom deals while residents suffer three-hour commutes packed like sardines in dangerous, polluting minivans known as "combis".

But what appears to have swung it was the vocal support for Ms Villaran from Lourdes Flores, her defeated opponent in the 2011 mayoral elections and leader of the People's Christian Party, which has a long tradition of standing up to corruption.

More than anything else, that allowed Ms Villaran to paint the recall as a non-ideological struggle between decency and graft.

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