"Lucho (Castaneda) will return to the mayor's office and I'll go back to be a 74,000-soles (nearly $29,000) consultant. Perhaps more," he is heard to say.
Gutierrez says the recordings were doctored, but has been evasive about the recall campaign's funding.
Pressed by reporters, he finally released a list of the 34 donors. Mostly unknowns, some are in debt and one is listed as deceased in public records. Another was allegedly contracted for dirty tricks by former President Alberto Fujimori's intelligence agents.
Villaran calls herself a democratic leftist in the mold of former Chilean President Michele Bachelet, whom she counts as a friend. Shorty and plucky, she is affectionate with staff and supporters, freely dispensing hugs.
She fiercely criticized Fujimori during his corruption-tainted 1990-2000 presidency and served as women's minister in a transitional government after his downfall. She later defended abused women in Colombia, Guatemala and Nicaragua as an investigator for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
With her November 2010 election, the left returned to Lima's City Hall for the first time in 23 years. The conservative she defeated, Lourdes Flores, opposes Villaran's recall, as do President Ollanta Humala, former U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar and leading intellectuals, actors, artists and athletes.
Villaran's troubles highlight the importance of minding political sensitivities even if deep reform is on your agenda, said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard University political scientist.
As Peru's second most powerful elected official, Villaran holds a highly coveted job that has traditionally been a golden goose for crooked contractors.
Castaneda left office with an 80 percent approval rating after building hundreds of concrete staircases in the precarious, hilly shantytowns that ring the capital and setting up neighborhood health clinics.
Unfortunately, said Levitsky, Villaran and her small group of technocrats initially paid little attention to "the politics of governing" and alienated major political stakeholders.
"The key is to sell your project politically so that you get credit for what you are doing," Levitsky said, something she was very slow to do.
He said her government has not done much to compensate "those who stand to lose out under the new rules."
That has made Villaran especially unpopular among the stevedores and street merchants who worked at the La Parada wholesale market that she shut down in October, prompting rioting that claimed four lives as racketeers who demanded payoffs from everyone from stall owners to truck drivers hired thugs to resist.
Another hard sell are the drivers she wants to put on fixed salaries so she can renew and reorganize Lima's unruly bus and taxi fleets. Currently, they work 16-hour days without benefits and are paid based on passengers carried.
Villaran also faces strong opposition from conservative evangelicals.
The Coalicion Profamilia Internacional, led by the Rev. Jose Linares, hasn't forgiven her for marching in a 2011 gay pride parade and, as he tweeted, "trying to impose her gay ideology on the family."
Her fate now sits in the hands of Peruvians such as motorcycle taxi driver Marabelo Alania, who said she resents Villaran for imposing rules to ease traffic jams that have meant more tickets for violators.
"It's not fair to us who are just trying to make a living," Alania said.
Villaran acknowledges the political downside of all the social upheaval involved in trying to find stable jobs for people who have toiled all their lives in a chaotic, informal economy.
"Change will have an extraordinary effect on their lives. Their quality of life will change for the better. They just don't see it that way at the moment."
Frank Bajak on Twitter: http://twitter.com/fbajak
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