Citizens deserve to know who is funding recall campaigns in Peru

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Have you been asked to sign a recall petition yet? If you’re in Lima, you probably have or will be soon. But will you know who is asking you?

The big effort is to collect 400,000 signatures to recall Lima mayor Susana Villarán. It’s going to be a Herculean effort, requiring thousands of canvassers, groups of strategists and teams of lawyers. If it is successful, it won’t be the product of a group of plucky citizens banding together; it will require the money of some powerful people and groups. Unfortunately, we might never know who they are.

That is because Peruvian electoral law does not require the organizers of recall drives to divulge the source of their funds. While electoral campaigns in Peru must report who their contributors are, recall campaigns are exempt from that requirement. Are the backers of a recll drive the heads of an opposition political party? Contractors or developers whose deals with the old mayor have been torn up by the new administration? Concerned citizens? We have no idea, but shouldn’t the citizens know this information before signing the petition placed before them?

Perhaps the laws governing recalls were crafted with small towns in mind. In small communities, where the majority of successful recall efforts have taken place, it really is a group of concerned citizens volunteering and knocking on their neighbors’ doors. Divulging the funding sources for these campaigns is unnecessary, because it is likely that there are no funds at all. Lima, however is no small village.

These recall efforts are a political act and can influence the government as much as any electoral campaign. The law therefore ought to treat them the same way as they do elections.

A spokesman for ONPE has said that the recall campaign against Susana Villarán has spurred debate in the organization about the disclosure of funding. It is my hope that the law is changed. If these recall efforts are going to become a part of Peruvian politics, it is time for a light to be shined on the mysterious process.
Nick Rosen is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Peru this Week. This editorial represents his own views, and not those of the publication.

Do you know who is funding the recall efforts in Lima? No one does.

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