Peru's president looks to calm anti-mining protests

July 24, 2012

In an effort to calm anti-mining protests in Peru, President Ollanta Humala named the justice minister and well-known human rights lawyer, Juan Jimenez, as prime minister as part of a larger shuffling of his Cabinet with the hopes that it would end a wave of violent anti-mining protests.

Jimenez, 47, 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, Reuters reported.

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.

Humala has defended foreign investment and has tried to help push ahead with large mining projects, such as the Conga project, but he has meet resistance from rural communites. The Cabinet overhaul marked the second time in his year-old term that widespread disputes over natural resources prompted the ouster of his prime minister.

Peruvian leaders often shuffle their Cabinets on July 28, Peruvian Independence Day, which will also mark the anniversary of Humala’s first year in office. Humala's approval rating fell to a new low of 40 percent this month, according to an Ipsos poll.

“This will be a Cabinet of dialogue,” Jimenez said in his first speech as prime minister. “We will move closer to the people. We will readdress the issue of social conflicts in Peru.”

Humala, who took office vowing to cut the poverty rate from 30 percent by ramping up social spending and backing big business, brought in six new ministers to his 19-member Cabinet. He named Eda Rivas, who had been Jimenez’s deputy in the Justice Ministry, as the new justice minister.



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