Peru's Humala picks technocrat for mining ministry

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 11, 2011 6:38 PM
Peru's Humala picks technocrat for mining ministry

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has picked Jorge Humberto Merino, who worked for the government agency that promotes foreign investment, to be his new mines and energy minister, local media reported on Sunday.

Peru is a top global minerals exporter and relies on foreign investment in the mining and oil sectors to fuel its swift economic growth.

Merino, an engineer, will replace Carlos Herrera, who had tussled with other members of a diverse Cabinet that Humala said on Saturday he would overhaul after only five months in office. The government has struggled to calm protests by communities opposed to natural resource projects.

Humala was expected to replace 10 of his 19 ministers in a formal swearing-in ceremony later on Sunday, but was set to reappoint Finance Minister Luis Miguel Castilla, who is well-regarded by Wall Street, and Trade Minister Jose Luis Silva, who has pushed an ambitious free-trade agenda for the Andean country.

Humala's staff said on Saturday he had picked Oscar Valdes, a former military officer, to be prime minister. He will succeed Salomon Lerner, a businessman who forged ties with investors and urged dialogue to defuse social conflicts over proposed mining and oil projects that communities say would cause pollution or take scarce water supplies.

Critics said the appointment of Valdes sent a worrisome signal that Humala, himself a former army officer, would govern with a more authoritarian style that emphasized law and order and harsh crackdowns on protesters instead of mediation and dialogue to solve conflicts.

(Reporting by Terry Wade; Editing by Peter Cooney)