The new mayor of Lima, Luis Castañeda Lossio, has faced a challenging time in his first four months at the helm. In this short period he has managed to antagonise a large part of the city’s population, and his approval ratings have dwindled from a remarkable 70% support to around 50%, and they are still declining.
The artists, who reacted against the covering of the street art in Central Lima were among the first groups to react, followed by veterans of the January street protests against the youth employment law (the so-called ‘ley pulpín’) who took to the streets to protest against the proposal to build a fly-over in central Lima. Opposition to this scheme came from all sides, even from the minister of economy and finance who claimed he needed to be consulted first. The Shipibo communities from the Peruvian Amazon who live precariously along the banks of the River Rímac complained about funds allocated for upgrading the riverside into a park would be used for the fly-over instead; they had been looking forward to being relocated as part of the project to regenerate the area. Moreover, Castañeda has argued with city planners and the College of Architects who have angrily denied his claim that the city lacks a master plan; one was prepared and much debated during Susana Villarán’s time as mayor.
Castañeda has even managed to antagonize surfers and beach-goers, not usually considered one of the capital’s more politicized interest groups. This week, huge rocks were deposited on the beach along the Costa Verde as part of the mayor’s project to expand the highway scheme along the coast in Lima; surfers took to the street, holding up the work until they were forcefully evicted by the police. Images of half-naked men with surfboards confronting on anti-riot police in full gear on the beach were published in the media, provoking frenzied reactions on social media.
Most of Castañeda’s moves so far have been to reverse or obliterate policy actions taken by Villarán. In the case of the Costa Verde, however, he took on with renewed fervour a project on which Villarán, facing opposition, had decided to backtrack. With the ocean already reclaiming much of the new construction obras, the surfers found themselves in common cause with the Environment Ministry and the Navy. The Navy, which has jurisdiction over all the coastal areas, has decided to issue a 57,750 new sol fine against the city authorities for having illegally dumped these rocks.
Castañeda now faces the possibility of an investigation in Congress, whilst pressure is mounting on him to present his vision for the city since most of his policy announcements so far seem improvised and politically-driven. Some commentators are starting to wonder what can be done to stop Castañeda and there is even talk about mounting a petition for his eventual recall. Readers will remember how, in 2013, Villarán only narrowly averted recall in a referendum initiated and propelled by Castañeda’s followers.