Peru's Leader Shakes Up His Cabinet Amid Protests
Por Dialogo julio 15, 2009President Alan Garcia shuffled his Cabinet following months of protests, replacing seven of 16 ministers and naming a new chief — the third person to hold the post in nine months. Javier Velasquez, a lawyer who has served as a congressman for 14 years for Garcia's APRA party, was sworn in as Cabinet secretary to replace Yehude Simon, who resigned. Simon had drawn strong criticism for the government's handling of months of protests by Indians over moves to open the Amazon to oil and other development. A police crackdown on a protest roadblock triggered violence that killed at least 33 people on June 5. Simon's predecessor, Jorge del Castillo, quit in October, along with all other Cabinet members, after tapes surfaced that allegedly revealed members of his party discussing bribes to steer business to the Norwegian oil company Discover Petroleum. "I hope that this Cabinet will be the last team to complete the difficult work" of the government, said Garcia, who has seen the Indian unrest spread to other disenchanted groups in the strongest protests against his policies since he assumed the presidency in July 2006. Recent polls have shown less than one-fourth of Peruvians in favor of Garcia's handling of his office. The president named new ministers of defense, interior, justice, agriculture, labor, foreign trade and tourism, and production. He retained the home secretary and the ministers of the economy, foreign relations, education, women, health, energy and mines, transportation, and environment.