Urresti cleared, ahead in Lima mayor polls

6 October 2018

With nationwide regional and municipal elections taking place on 7 October, media focus last week was on who would emerge victorious as mayor of Lima. On 4 October, one of the leading figures in this race, Daniel Urresti, the front-runner, was absolved of responsibility for the assassination in November 1988 of Hugo Bustíos, a journalist with the weekly Caretas magazine. 

The latest Datum poll, carried out prior to the court decision, put him narrowly in the lead with 16.5% of voting intentions, followed by Jorge Muñoz of Acción Popular (AP) with 14.3%. Its previous poll put Urresti on the same level (14.3%) as Renzo Reggiardo, who has led the pack in Lima for much of the campaign. Urresti being declared innocent, and all the publicity surrounding his case, should help push up his eventual support.

However, the dispersion of candidates for the mayoralty of Lima is such – there are 21 in all – that none had a strong lead over the rest, and the polls suggested that most limeños still had to make up their minds. Voting is compulsory in Peru.

The Urresti case is a reminder of the sort of violence and human rights violations that took place in the late 1980s at the height of the war against Sendero. Bustíos was a reporter covering events on the ground in Ayacucho for Caretas, and Caretas played an important role in covering Ayacucho and bringing to public attention many of the atrocities that took place at the time.

Bustíos’ family are reportedly appalled by the Urresti verdict, claiming it to be a travesty of justice and flying in the face of evident facts. Urresti, who was a captain in the army in Ayacucho at the time and is now a retired general, likes to talk tough on law and order issues. He was minister of the interior for eight months (2014-15) during the Humala administration.

The next mayor of Lima will inherit a complex set of problems from the incumbent, Luis Castañeda. Not only does the city suffer from poor planning, but its housing problems are immense and the city’s traffic and urban transit problems rival those of any large Latin American city. Castañeda bows out with his once impressive popularity in shreds.

Urresti is the candidate of Podemos Perú, a political grouping established by Castañeda’s former right-hand-man José Luna. The way in which Podemos Perú registered for the election is currently under investigation. Urresti admits the presentation of false signatures but has ventured that this is “normal” in Peru. 

Elections also take place across the country on 7 October. No clear pattern of likely winners and losers has emerged, in part because of the inability of polling companies to cover the country comprehensively. If the record of previous elections is anything to go by, victory will go to regional leaderships with national parties making little headway at the local level.

As we suggested last week, an increase in the resources flowing from the canon from extractive industries means that many sub-national leaders have more money at their disposal than they know how to (legally) use.

It is worthy of mention here that Walter Aduviri, candidate for the governorship of Puno, was deemed innocent of the charges against him in a hearing of the Lima High Court last week. Aduviri had been sentenced to seven years in jail by a court in Puno for his role in the so-called Aymarazo protest against the Santa Ana mining concession in 2011. However, Aduviri, who will face a new trial. has been in hiding for several months.

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