President Humala relieves five top ministers in opposition’s crosshairs to shore up flagging administration
Published by Anadolu Agency Feb 18
Peru’s president has replaced high-ranking ministers in his Cabinet in an attempt to mollify a hostile opposition as his approval ratings sink.
President Ollanta Humala sacked under-fire heads of the Interior, Justice, Energy and Mines, and two other ministries, but kept in power his sixth prime minister, Ana Jara, despite calls for her exit.
The late Tuesday night reshuffle came as defections in the president’s ruling Nationalist party curbed his authority to push through legislation, while the opposition Fuerza Popular bloc amped up pressure as it controlled the most seats.
Central to criticism of the administration is its economic management. Peru grew its least in five years in 2014, registering less than half the 5.8 percent GDP posted the previous year as mining exports slumped and private investment waned.
A rash of scandals involving the president’s links to a former campaign manager awaiting extradition in Bolivia and investigations into the first lady’s financial accounts are further eroding Humala’s grip on power. The presidential couple deny the allegations.
The approval rating of the former military officer that turned right on being elected in 2011, fell 3 points to 22 percent in February, as perceptions of corruption gathered pace, according to an Ipsos poll. Former presidents have survived lower approval rates.
To deflect mounting criticism, Humala sacked the most popular figure in his Cabinet, Interior Minister Daniel Urresti after police fatally shot a protester during rallies against natural gas extraction last week.
Departing Energy and Mines Minister Eledoro Mayorga was criticized for telling demonstrators that he would ask an energy company, Pluspetrol, to leave the area and review its contract.
Humala swore in Rosa Maria Ortiz, the former head of the state agency that issues oil and natural gas licenses, in Mayorga’s place.
Justice Minister Daniel Figallo was replaced after he allegedly intervened in favor of fugitive businessman Martin Belaunde, under house arrest in Bolivia.
The minister for Women and Vulnerable Populations was sacked, while Peru’s Work minister took up the position at the Justice Ministry.
“With these ministerial changes the government is giving in to pressures from the opposition,” Luis Benavente, political analyst and head of pollster Vox Populi told La Republica daily.
“Two of the most popular three ministers are going, but it gives the Cabinet chief, Ana Jara, the opportunity to unload the under-question ministers and now put on track dialog set up with political sectors,” Benavente added.
Humala’s cross-party dialog process to ease tensions in governing the country is due to reconvene in March.