Monday, 13 July 2009

Peruvian President changes almost half his cabinet


Lima, July 12. In the midst of growing social protests and confrontations with the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, Peruvian president Alan Garcia, announced today changes to part of his ministerial cabinet. He replaced figures allied with the centre-left and took refuge in more conservative sectors.

Alan García changed six of fifteen of his immediate collaborators, beginning with the cabinet chief, centre-leftist, Yehude Simon, who was replaced by Javier Velásquez, legislator from the governing APRA party, who has presided over congress until now.

Interior minister Mercedes Cabanillas also left the government as well as Antero Flores Araoz the defense minister, two officials severely questioned due to the repression launched against the various protests that cover almost the entire territory.

This is the second time that, forced by a political crisis, Alan Garcia has changed part of his cabinet. In October 2008, then cabinet chief Jorge del Castillo and his collaborators resigned in block, alter the press released recordings revealing corruption in the negotiation of contracts with the State.

Del Castillo was then replace by Simon, governor of the Lambayeque region and former left deputy, who in the 90s was imprisoned for his presumed links with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.

Social protests multiplied throughout the entire country

The growth of social protests related to the lack of employment, low salaries, the establishment of laws that threatened land rights and natural resources of the Andean and Amazonian indigenous communities, as well as environmental demands from peoples affected by mining, prompting the government to impose a firm hand before before giving attention to the demands.

A report by the Ombudsman said that in June there were 273 social conflicts throughout the country and in October 2008, when Simon took over the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, 189.

It was because of a social conflict that Garcia had to change the Simon’s cabinet. It was specifically, the violent eviction, on June 5, by a contingent of policemen, of the indigenous people and residents in the Amazonian town of Bagua, who were protesting against the so-called laws of the jungle.

The clash ended with the deaths of at least 33 people, but the announcement of the resignation of Simon’s cabinet has not pacified mobilizations. Over the days 7, 8 and 9 July, union and social groups and opposition parties staged a strike that was concentrated in the southern Andes and the Amazon jungle. This time the capital of the country was not the main stage.

Against this background, Alan García has used an active member of the governing party to recompose his cabinet.

Velásquez has been a legislator since 1995 and has held positions of importance in the leadership of APRA, of which he has been a member since 1980, five years before Garcia's first government (1985-1990).

His presidency of the Congress, which he has held since July 2008, has been questioned. In fact, he refused to repeal the laws that led to the revolt of the indigenous Amazonian and punished seven legislators from the opposition who went on hunger strike in support of the natives.

For Garcia, the social conflicts are incited, encouraged or manipulated by individuals supposedly financed by the political movement led by the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez.

Just before installing the new cabinet, Alan García referred to the increasingly active ideological conflict in South America, in allusion to Chavez's supposed interference.

Translated by Kiraz Janicke. Republished from La Jornada

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