Peru: President Alejandro Toledo Shuffles Cabinet

Article excerpt

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo has made major changes in his Cabinet, including the key economic and foreign policy posts. The unpopular president, whose approval rating in opinion polls is less than 16%, is experiencing a credibility crisis after failing to keep his campaign promises to create more jobs and improve living conditions for the country's poor majority.

Polls show the public is also dissatisfied with Toledo's economic policies, especially the privatization plans that led to deadly protests in June, and for his indecisiveness.

He also has been unable or unwilling to put to rest claims that he has a daughter whom he refuses to recognize. Last week, the Corte Suprema suspended an Aug. 7 hearing at which Toledo was to undergo a court-ordered DNA test for the paternity suit.

Cabinet unravels

The Cabinet shakeup began June 20 when Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi resigned following the violent protests in Arequipa against the privatization of two regional utility companies EGESUR and EGASA. Two people were killed in the rioting before the government agreed to halt the sale (see NotiSur, 2002-06-21).

Rospigliosi, a former journalist, had been considered one of the most important ministers in Toledo's Cabinet. He said he was resigning because he disagreed with Toledo's decision to declare a state of emergency during the protests. Two days later, Toledo named Gino Costa, who had been deputy interior minister, to replace Rospigliosi.

The same day, Ricardo Vega Llona, head of Peru's privatization agency ProInversion, said he had submitted his resignation because he disagreed with the president's decision to suspend the privatization of the two utility companies. He said the agency was not consulted prior to the decision, which was made by the ministers involved in negotiating an end to the protests in Arequipa and other cities.

"I have resigned because I do not support the Arequipa agreement, nor the treatment given Minister Rospigliosi, and for various other reasons that I prefer not to mention," said Vega Llona. However, a day later, he backtracked and said he had decided to stay at the president's urging.

On June 21, Toledo expressed his support for his Cabinet and his confidence in his administration's economic program. He said no other Cabinet members would resign.

Political analyst Juan Carlos Tafur said Toledo might have given in to pressure from the US government and from multilateral organizations to keep some of the ministers on. "What is most worrisome is that this incident clearly shows that Toledo and those close to him do not understand the enormity of the political crisis that they have on their hands, which could be resolved by, among many things, major changes in the Cabinet."

As criticism continued, Toledo said on July 7 that he would make "significant" changes in the Cabinet on July 28, Peru's Independence Day and the first anniversary of his presidency. The Cabinet traditionally submits its resignation on July 28 in a gesture that is usually a formality.

Prime Minister Roberto Danino said he would be among those leaving at the end of July. He said he had offered to resign in mid-June, but the offer had not been accepted.

Foreign minister sets off major changes

Not waiting for July 28, however, Foreign Minister Diego Garcia Sayan said on July 9 that he had submitted his "irrevocable" resignation. "When someone resigns as I did, they do so irrevocably, not as a negotiating tool," said Garcia Sayan. "I am not going to give further explanations, this is an important moment for the reformation of the government, and under no circumstances would I want to contribute to creating difficulties."

Press reports said Garcia Sayan quit after he found out that Toledo, without telling him first, had offered his position to Peru's US Ambassador Allan Wagner.

Labor Minister Fernando Villaran told CPN radio he regretted the resignation of a "magnificent" minister and said the entire Cabinet had decided to present their resignations. …