May 24, 2013
Peru's Humala shuffles cabinet to calm protests
President Ollanta Humala named human rights lawyer Juan Jimenez prime minister on Monday as the Peruvian leader shuffled his cabinet to calm a wave of violent anti-mining protests.
Jimenez, 47, had been justice minister and replaced Oscar Valdes, a former army officer who led a crackdown on protesters opposed to Newmont Mining's $5 billion Conga project in the northern region of Cajamarca that killed five people this month.
Humala reappointed Finance Minister Luis Miguel Castilla, a favorite of investors, and Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino, who oversees a $50 billion 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 streak under Valdes.
Prominent members of Congress have called for Valdes to step down and say the government should emphasize mediation instead of force to solve environmental disputes.
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 criticized the government's use of force.