President Ollanta Humala of Peru, Spanish-speaking Latin America’s only semi-presidential regime, has maintained the Peruvian tradition of frequently reshuffling the cabinet. Last Tuesday, Humala, elected on the back of a campaign rooted in economic nationalism, requested the resignation of his current prime minister, Juan Jiménez, thereby marking the resignation of Humala’s third prime minister since he took office in July 2011.
In his stead, Humala has appointed Cesar Villanueva, the regional president of the northern department of San Martín. Humala also replaced Education Minister Patricia Salas with Jaime Saavedra-Chanduvi, the acting vice president for poverty reduction and economic management at the World Bank.
The move, coming a month before the traditional December reshuffle, has been interpreted as a signal to placate the mining industry and investors frustrated by slow economic and regulatory reforms and a weakening export sector. It is hoped that Villaneuva, from the center-left, and with a record of brokering political deals, can establish peace between the government and a number of recalcitrant political opponents, opposed to continued expansion of mining in the Andes. The Finance Minister, Luis Miguel Castilla, favored by business, who has been in office since Humala took power, has remained in place.
Jiménez had also been criticized for his apparent lack of concern regarding crime in Peru. With Humala’s popularity at its nadir, and with crime the issue of most concern to the Peruvian electorate, it is no surprise that one of Villaneuva’s first speeches stressed the importance of establishing a united political front in the face of increasing crime and delinquency.
This reshuffle suggests that the Humala government will remain resolutely economically orthodox. Humala, previously a left-leaning radical, was viewed as an economic nationalist on the left of the political spectrum during the 2011 election, but once in power, he distanced himself from indigenous communities, which he had previously courted, and supported the interests of the mining sector in Peru, a country with eye-wateringly high levels of inequality. This political re-alignment was cemented following massive anti-mining protests in 2011, which prompted Humala to shift to the right and adopt a hardline stance towards the protesters.
The appointment of Villaneauva suggests a move towards the political center.