Peru: President Alejandro Toledo Faces Cabinet Resignations, Excessive "Political Din"

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Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo was recently hit by several resignations within his Cabinet and the possible collapse of his party's coalition with its parliamentary ally. This came on top of continued low approval ratings for the beleaguered executive, raising speculation that Toledo might not be able to complete his five-year term.

On Nov. 14, Defense Minister Aurelio Loret de Mola and Foreign Minister Allan Wagner both gave Toledo their resignations. Wagner said he was leaving to become general secretary of the Comunidad de Naciones Andinas (CAN). Loret de Mola had expressed frustration with what he called an inadequate defense budget.

Earlier, on Oct. 7, Presidency Secretary Guillermo Gonzalez Arica resigned, after a lengthy battle with the opposition and some members of the governing Peru Posible (PP), who accused him of preventing access to the president.

Gonzalez Arica has been one of Toledo's closest collaborators. Toledo did not accept the resignation until early December when he announced that he was appointing the former presidency secretary to be a special presidential advisor on human rights, effective Dec. 10. The new presidency secretary is Luis Chuquihuara Chil.

Vice president resigns as trade minister

Vice President Raul Diez Canseco also resigned from his second post as foreign trade and tourism minister on Nov. 10, following allegations that the 55-year-old businessman had trafficked his influence for the family of his girlfriend, Luciana de la Fuente. Diez Canseco initially denied any relation with the 26-year-old woman. He said he would stay on as vice president.

Diez Canseco was replaced as minister of foreign trade and tourism by Alfredo Ferrero, who had been the deputy minister. Ferrero said his priority would be to consolidate foreign trade and to work to obtain a free trade agreement with the US.

The Frente Independiente Moralizador (FIM) bloc in Congress, which is allied with the government, formally accused Diez Canseco of having violated the Constitution when he signed the decree that exempted the sale of food and beverages in the international section of the airports from taxes. The FIM presented the formal complaint against Diez Canseco and central bank governor and former economy minister Javier Silva Ruete, who was in office when the decree was imposed.

The newspapers reported that the decree exempting airport restaurants from the Impuesto General a las Ventas (IGV) was for the benefit of German de la Fuente, father of Luciana, who owned a restaurant in the international area of the Jorge Chavez Airport in Lima. The decree also allowed the father to win a legal case in a government tax court and avoid paying back taxes, reports said. Diez Canseco was also accused of obtaining high-paying jobs for Luciana and two of her cousins in the state Comision de Promocion de las Exportaciones (Prompex).

Congress is now investigating the vice president. If it finds that he committed a crime, he could be suspended, fired, or prohibited from occupying any public office, said Deputy Heriberto Benitez.

On Dec. 2, Javier Velasquez, head of the congressional Comision de Fiscalizacion, called for a 10-year ban on Diez Canseco holding public office. The commission voted against that recommendation but recommended that Congress pursue fraud charges against Diez Canseco and Silva Ruete.

The commission voted by 6 to 5 to formally accuse Diez Canseco and 6 to 1, with 5 abstentions, to accuse Silva Ruete. Some legislators had left the session, accounting for differences in voting numbers.

"There has been a breach of the Constitution because the crimes of fraud and illegal favors have been committed," said commission member Mauricio Mulder of APRA after the heated six-hour session. "It's up to the full Congress to decide whether to bar Diez Canseco and Silva Ruete....We can't rule out the possibility that the plenary session will do so. …