December 12, 2011 in Nation/World

Peru Cabinet shake-up bodes ill for protesters

Franklin Briceno Associated Press

LIMA, Peru – Peruvian President Ollanta Humala replaced more than half his Cabinet on Sunday, a day after accepting its chief minister’s resignation in a move widely seen as signaling less tolerance for social protests.

The new Cabinet chief, Oscar Valdes, has advocated a hard line against protesters who oppose the country’s biggest mining project.

Among the eight Cabinet members retained were business-friendly Finance Minister Luis Castilla and Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo, a left-leaning sociologist.

Also among those removed were the mining and environment ministers, casualties of the dispute over the $4.8 billion Conga gold mine project.

After increasingly violent protests led by local politicians in the northern state of Cajamarca, the chief Cabinet minister who just resigned, Salomon Lerner, went to negotiate with the protest leaders.

But after only seven hours of talks Dec. 4, Humala declared a state of emergency in four provinces, curtailing civil liberties.

As interior minister, Valdes asked prosecutors to arrest several protest leaders on charges including “hindering the functioning of public services.”

Analyst Carlos Monge of the nonprofit environmental group Revenue Watch Institute expressed concern over Valdes’ ascent.

“It’s worrisome that the power of prime minister has been granted to Valdes, a former military man who incarnates the most authoritarian voice of the regime.”

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