Peru’s Humala Appoints Sixth Prime Minister in Three years

Originally published by Anadolu Agency, July 23rd

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has appointed the country’s sixth prime minister in three years, after Rene Cornejo resigned amid accusations of plotting a smear campaign against an opposition politician.

Ana Jara (pictured centre) was sworn in on Wednesday after Cornejo stepped down amid allegations made in a television program that his aide paid a former government official to discredit congressman Victor Garcia Belaude.

Belaude presented evidence in March of a conflict of interest linking Cornejo to a consulting firm contracted to the state, while he was Minister for Housing between July 2011 and October 2012.

The departure is the fifth in almost three years, denting the Humala administration which has seen its approval ratings hit new lows as Peru’s economy sags.

The revelations in the TV program Cuarto Poder (Fourth Power) on Sunday saw a former housing ministry bureaucrat allege Cornejo’s staffer Luis Zegarra paid 1,800 soles ($644) and handed over a dossier of accusations aimed at toppling his political opponent.

Belaude said: “You can’t have a prime minister that wants to spatter opposition politicians with mud.

“This is a political practice of criminals that the President must not allow.”

Close confidante

A commission is due to publish findings of Cornejo’s links with the company Helios, in what is alleged to have been a violation of parliamentary code.

Humala said all those involved “directly or indirectly” must step down from their posts.

Humala’s approval fell for four consecutive months from February to May, although it rose in June to 25 per cent according to Lima-based El Comercio newspaper, as Peru’s economy expanded the least in five years with 1.8 per cent  growth.

The resignation comes as the government carries out an annual shuffle of top posts in Congress, which has attracted criticism from the opposition for the interference of First Lady, Nadine Heredia (pictured second right) , in decision-making.

New Prime Minister Jara, the third in Peru’s history, is a close confidante of Heredia.

The 46-year old lawyer is a member of the Gana Peru alliance containing the Peruvian Nationalist Party of which Heredia is president.

Undue meddling

Jara is the minister who most often appears by the First Lady’s side at public events and has defended her against accusations of undue meddling, reported the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Humala confirmed Heredia decided last week on the next president of congress – Ana Maria Solorzano – after a lack of consensus in the government.

Jara promised to increase public spending and maintain efforts to combat corruption.

A fifth of Peru’s 25 regional government presidents are facing corruption charges.

Presidents may only govern in single five-year teams, prompting speculation that Heredia, who enjoys higher approval ratings than her husband, may run in 2016.

In the three years of Humala’s government, 60 ministers have led 19 ministries.

Humala’s second prime minister, Oscar Valdez, resigned over a dispute of the awarding of a $4.8 billion mining project in 2012, while his fourth, Cesar Villanueva stepped aside after a disagreement over minimum wage legislation earlier this year.

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