President Ollanta Humala has named Justice Minister Juan Jimenez prime minister, as the Peruvian leader shuffled his cabinet to quell a wave of violent anti-mining protests.
Jimenez, 47, a human rights lawyer, replaced Oscar Valdes, a former army officer who led a crackdown on protesters opposed to Newmont Mining’s $5bn Conga project in the northern region of Cajamarca that killed five people this month.
On Monday, Humala also reappointed Finance Minister Luis Miguel Castilla, a popular figure with investors, and Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino, who oversees a $50bn pipeline of investments in one of the world’s top exporters of minerals.
Promoting Jimenez, who served as vice justice minister in the government that led Peru’s transition to democracy in 2000, may help Humala overcome criticism that his government developed a militant, authoritarian line under Valdes.
Prominent members of Congress had called for Valdes to step down and said the government should emphasise mediation instead of force to solve environmental disputes.
Valdes said via Twitter he was stepping down in a widely anticipated move.
|Violent protests continue against Peru’s Conga project|
“Dear friends, I wanted to share with you the end of my turn as the head of the cabinet, thanking you for your support and constructive criticism,” Valdes tweeted.
Peru’s constitution requires all ministers to offer their resignations whenever a prime minister quits.
However, a Jimenez-led cabinet may not pacify regional government leaders who have led anti-mining protests and say Humala has turned his back on the rural poor who voted for him
by abandoning his leftist ideals and drifting to the right.
Jimenez backed Humala’s decision to suspend civil liberties in Cajamarca, where human rights groups have sharply criticised the government’s use of force.
Humala has sought to push ahead with more than $50bn in planned mining investments in one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies, but has faced stiff resistance from poor rural communities left behind by a decade-long boom.
Peruvian leaders often shuffle their cabinets on July 28, Peruvian Independence Day, which also will mark the anniversary of Humala’s first year in office.
Humala’s approval rating fell to a fresh low of 40 per cent this month, according to an Ipsos poll.
Humala replaced half of his cabinet in December, when he promoted Valdes from interior minister to prime minister as he sought to quell protests with a firmer, more law-and-order tone of leadership.