Recalling Memories of the Mayor who Survived a Recall Vote

There seems to be a recall vote fever in some parts of South America. The first female mayor of Lima, Susana Villarán, just survived a recall vote. Another center-left mayor, Gustavo Petro in Bogotá is facing a similar attempt.

As I have always respected her, I am glad that Villarán won the vote. Soon after the fall of the authoritarian government of Alberto Fujimori, I worked with her and other Peruvian ministers of the time to propose a truth commission. As an adviser to the inter-ministerial group that prepared the draft the truth commission in Peru, I was working from the office of the coordinator of the group, Minister of Justice Diego García-Sayán. Villarán had just become Minister for Women and Social Development and often came to Ministry of Justice for meetings.

Villarán always had great stories of how the democratic transition from the Fujimori times to the interim government of Valentín Paniagua took place. We had many laughs over the way she described taking the ministry over from the last Fujimorista minister, Luisa María Cuculiza.

The transition was not as deep as I believe we all hoped, but it was an important moment. The Paniagua government was probably the most human-rights oriented one in the contemporary history of Peru. Both García-Sayán and Villarán had been long-time human rights activists. The former is today Vice President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, whereas the latter can now continues as mayor of Lima for another couple of years.

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