local organization. In the north, the
have been largely autonomous organizations. In the central
and southern sierra, these have worked closely with the Army.
Because of the new politics of centralized power and patron client resource networks, district
municipalities have convened a wide range of community leaders to support district and regional
development plans. Often meetings are organized by a group of NGOs or other private entities, together
with the mayor, councilpersons, and state representatives in the zone. Typically, these groups will form
commissions, identify problems, and discuss strategy. Such experiences have been found throughout the
country, in districts in Piura, Cuzco, Apurimac, Puno, Ayacucho, San Martin, Ancash, Arequipa, and
elsewhere. This type of community organizing takes place in urban areas as well, particularly in marginal
areas. Three urban experiences which have come to serve as models for other poor urban zones are the
cases of Villa Salvador for Metropolitan Lima, and the provinces of Ilo in the south, and Cajamarca in
the north (Zapata, 1999, p. 103). Both rural and urban experiences offer differing degrees of success, but
they underscore a movement of local actors creating stronger intermediate level organizations to better
mediate relations with the state.
The Association of Municipalities of Peru (AMPE) was formed to bring together local efforts throughout
Peru. However, this effort soon became too politicized, dividing into pro government and independent
factions. More promising have been the regional efforts to coordinate community and municipal
activities. One of the most successful has been the Association of Municipalities of San Martin
(AMRESAM), discussed in detail below. National and international NGOs, some with the assistance of
foreign donors, have also contributed to this process. With the waning of the conflict with Sendero
Luminoso, NGOs began to work with the displaced communities, in assisting to return entire
communities to their homes and land. These NGOs have become an important voice for articulating
needs, aggregating interests, and channeling representation, particularly in Ayacucho.
The answer to the question of who governs at the municipal level is varied. There are mayors who
represent the old relations of power and others who have roots in the old parties, such as APRA.
However, there is also an emerging generation of technocrat mayors, trained as engineers, agronomists,
economists, lawyers, and in other professions. Some community and peasant leaders have reached the
mayoralties of some districts. However, most of the NGO leadership that has become active at the
municipal and local level has not, thus far, moved into positions of local authority. There are two
exceptions: leaders from the rondas campesinas and leaders from women's organizations, both of whom
have begun to produce candidates for local office.
Who supports decentralization? Who opposes it? Alliances and Interests in the On going debate
As currently constituted, municipalities have few independent functions. Almost all of the functions
enumerated in the Organic Municipality Law (
La Ley Organica de Municipios
) are also assigned to other
levels of government at the regional and national level. Furthermore, the lack of political will has
blocked changes to the current law since 1983 (eight bills are pending for debate in Congress). The
central government has moved forward in deconcentration of authority, which means that Executive
agencies can maintain local branches. But deconcentration is not decentralization. Power still remains
with the Executive. It does not pass to locally elected officials. Mayors and councilmen have been
directly elected for 20 years. Initially elected for three year terms, their term of office have gradually
See CEPRODEP, 1999, and interviews with CEDROPEP officials.
Diez 1998, 35.
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