Peru's president in major shake-up of Cabinet

AP News
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Posted: Dec 12, 2011 12:20 AM
Peru's president in major shake-up of Cabinet

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala replaced more than half his Cabinet on Sunday, a day after accepting its chief minister's resignation in a move widely interpreted as signaling less tolerance for social protests.

The new Cabinet chief, Oscar Valdes, taught Humala at Peru's military academy in the 1980s and has advocated a hard line against protesters who oppose the country's biggest mining project.

Among the eight Cabinet members retained were business-friendly Finance Minister Luis Castilla and Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo, a left-leaning sociologist.

Prominent among the 10 ministers replaced was Susana Baca in the culture portfolio. The Latin Grammy-winning singer had been Peru's first Cabinet minister of African descent. Her replacement is Luis Peirano, a sociologist and theater director.

Also among those removed were the mining and environment ministers, casualties of the dispute over the $4.8 billion Conga gold mine project, the first major crisis of Humala's nearly five months in office.

After increasingly violent protests led by local politicians in the northern state of Cajamarca, the chief Cabinet minister who just resigned, Salomon Lerner, went to negotiate with the protest leaders.

But after only seven hours of talks Dec. 4, Humala declared a state of emergency in four affected provinces, curtailing civil liberties.

As interior minister, Valdes had asked prosecutors to arrest several protest leaders on charges including "hindering the functioning of public services."

Analyst Carlos Monge of the nonprofit environmental group Revenue Watch Institute expressed concern over Valdes' ascent to Cabinet chief.

"It's worrisome that the power of prime minister has been granted to Valdes, a former military man who incarnates the most authoritarian voice of the regime."