LIMA, Peru — President Alan Garcia won a powerful vote of confidence here against opponents of left and right in Peru's nationwide municipal elections Sunday.
Garcia's social democratic American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, popularly called the Apra party, wrested control of Lima from a popular Marxist incumbent in a bellwether three-way race and also scored important gains in cities around the country, according to returns supporting projections of independent television stations.
A fiery young populist who has restricted foreign debt payments in order to underwrite reforms favoring Peru's poor majority, Garcia has proved popular enough to withstand both foreign hostility and domestic accusations of demagoguery.
Garcia campaigned tirelessly around the country for candidates of the party that he brought to power last year after 60 years in opposition.
Both his jubilant supporters and his crestfallen opponents called Garcia's intervention decisive as word of Apra victories in cities large and small flooded into Lima on Sunday night.
For the mayor's race here in the capital, Garcia handpicked Jorge del Castillo, a 36-year-old lawyer and virtual political unknown, to run against incumbent Alfonso Barrantes, 58, president of a six-party Marxist front called the United Left, and Luis Bedoya, 67, a two-time former Lima mayor representing the center-right Popular Christian Party. Based on exit polls and computer projections, independent television stations predicted a Del Castillo victory soon after the polls closed.
34.5% for Del Castillo
With 90% of the Lima vote--about 1.3 million ballots--counted late Sunday, Del Castillo had 34.5%, Barrantes 31.5% and Bedoya 26.1%. The remaining ballots were spoiled or cast for minor candidates.
Apra candidates ran extremely well in other cities, winning the mayoralty in Callao, the port for Lima, and defeating Marxist incumbents in the guerrilla-troubled highlands city of Puno, according to returns Sunday night.
Guerrillas of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) movement murdered an Apra candidate in the Andean city of Huancayo on election eve, and no attempt was made to vote in about four dozen highland settlements where the Maoist guerrillas are strongest. But election day itself passed without report of major violence.
Under the watchful gaze of battle-ready troops and police, 8.7 million voters chose municipal officials in 1,883 jurisdictions ranging from the Pacific Coast to the Amazon rain forest. In most of the interior, the races were head-to-head tests of strength between Apra party and Marxist candidates.
In Lima, where a third of the voters live and the mayoralty is considered a trampoline for the presidency, the election was a struggle of national personalities debating local issues such as mass transportation and garbage collection.
Barrantes finished second to the 37-year-old Garcia in the 1985 presidential elections. Like Barrantes, Bedoya, an also-ran in 1985, has presidential aspirations in 1990, when Garcia is constitutionally prohibited from succeeding himself.
Barrantes campaigned on his record as an effective and creative administrator who breathed new life into a tired and overburdened city, in the process restoring municipal finances to the black.
Bedoya, as candidate of the middle and upper classes, campaigned for moderate reform with input from the private sector.
Del Castillo, whose only previous electoral experience came in winning the mayoralty of a Lima suburb in 1983, was a little-known dark horse when his expensive campaign began. He patterned himself in dress, hair style and speech after the flamboyant Garcia and profited from the president's popularity.
Carefully following Garcia's footsteps, Del Castillo urged better municipal oversight of price controls for basic foodstuffs, prompt construction of an urban railway line that Garcia has proposed, environmental cleanup and narrowing the differences in services between the rich and poor.