Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski reshuffled his cabinet in a bid to breathe new life into his moribund government after his decision to free former autocrat Alberto Fujimori from jail sparked a wave of criticism.
Kuczynski swore in nine new ministers at the presidential palace in Lima. Cabinet Chief Mercedes Araoz and Finance Minister Claudia Cooper remain in their posts while Cayetana Aljovin moved to the Foreign Ministry after five months heading the
Energy and Mines Ministry.
The president’s decision to pardon Fujimori on health grounds on December 24, three days after he narrowly survived an impeachment effort by Congress amid corruption allegations, has increased the disarray in his 17-month old centrist government. A host of government officials including two ministers resigned while leftist parties are considering a fresh impeachment motion alleging the pardon is the result of a deal with a small group of lawmakers loyal to Fujimori and should be struck down by the courts.
“The last 30 days have probably been unprecedented in our political life,” Kuczynski said after the swearing in ceremony. “We’re going through tense times, but we should strive for understanding to return stability to the country.”
Opposition parties snubbed the president’s goal of forming a more politically diverse cabinet. New Labor Minister Javier Barreda and Health Minister Abel Salinas were both expelled from the Apra party as punishment for joining Kuczynski’s cabinet, Canal N reported.
“However good the new cabinet might be, the problem of political confrontation in Peru is still there,” said Luis Benavente, director of Vox Populi, a Lima-based polling firm.
Three congressmen quit Kuczynski’s Peruvians for Change party after he pardoned Fujimori, leaving him with 15 lawmakers, out of a total 130 seats in the unicameral Congress. They allege that the president’s decision was politically motivated and that a pardon on health grounds is unwarranted. Peru’s largest trade union, the CGTP, will be among groups planning to march in Lima on January 11 in protest at the pardon.
With leftist lawmakers opposed to last month’s impeachment enraged by the pardon, his political future may rest in the hands of the Fujimori family. While Fujimori’s eldest daughter, Keiko, leads the largest party in Congress and sought Kuczynski’s removal, her effort was thwarted by a breakaway group of 10 lawmakers loyal to her father and led by his youngest son, Kenji.
The cabinet shake up is unlikely to be a lasting solution for the 79-year-old former investment banker who is mired in the country’s worst political crisis since Fujimori was forced out in 2000 amid a corruption scandal. The former strongman was convicted in 2009 for ordering two massacres by government-linked death squads and also received sentences for kidnapping, embezzlement and bribery.