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LatinNews Daily Report - 15 May 2012

Humala names three new ministers

Development: On 14 May Peru’s President Ollanta Humala swore in three new ministers to head up the defence, interior and production portfolios.

Significance: Humala was forced to make this mini cabinet re-shuffle just five months after a major cabinet overhaul in December. The latest changes resulted from the resignation last week of Daniel Lozada and Alberto Otárola from the interior and defence ministries. Both men quit in order to avoid a move by congress to censure them, and their departure was widely interpreted as an effort to shield Prime Minister Oscar Valdés Dancuart, who had backed the two ministers. Yet their replacements are already under fire, while Valdés’ position looks increasingly untenable.

Key points:

• The new defence minister is José Urquizo, who was transferred from the production ministry. The opposition immediately challenged the appointment, pointing out that Urquizo’s performance at the production ministry had been heavily criticised by his colleagues. Patricia Maljuf resigned on 5 May as the deputy minister for fisheries in protest at the ministry’s handling of protests by fishermen in northern Peru, describing Urquizo as “incompetent”. Gladys Treviño Chang, formerly the deputy minister of industry at the production ministry, will replace Urquizo.

• The opposition also came out against the new interior minister, Wilver Calle Girón, a retired army general, who was promoted from his post as deputy defence minister. Humala has been accused of “militarising” the cabinet by appointing former military officials, including Valdés. Previously, Humala retorted by pointing out that the two ministers in charge of the country’s security - Lozada and Otárola - were both civilians. As such, Calle Girón’s appointment has been interpreted as a step back.

• The former president Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), whose Perú Posible (PP) party backed the calls in congress to censure Lozada and Otárola, questioned why such a ‘militarised’ cabinet has made so little progress in resolving the country’s security problems. “We have a president who is a former commander, a prime minister who is a retired colonel……a presidential advisor, Adrián Villafuerte, who is also a military man” Toledo noted, calling on them to “do your jobs”. Toledo added that he “understood” the calls for Valdés to step down.

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