Peru's New President Reshuffles Cabinet As Relations With Mexico Are Tested | protest news

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Peru’s new president, Dina Boluarte, has announced a partial cabinet reshuffle, hours after lawmakers tentatively endorsed a plan to bring early elections in a bid to quell protests that broke out after the impeachment of Boluarte’s predecessor.

In a ceremony on Wednesday at the presidential palace, Boluarte named lawyer Alberto Otarola as Peru’s new prime minister. She also announced new defense and interior ministers.

Alex Contreras was retained as Minister of Economy and Oscar Vera will remain as Minister of Energy and Mines.

The changes come two weeks after Peru’s opposition-led Congress voted to remove President Pedro Castillo from office in the third attempt to impeach the leftist leader’s troubled presidency.

Shortly before his impeachment, Castillo had announced plans to dissolve the legislature and rule by decree, a move widely denounced as unconstitutional. Boluarte, Castillo’s vice president, was sworn in after his ouster.

Castillo’s expulsion, along with his subsequent arrest and pre-trial detention on rebellion and conspiracy charges, has triggered demonstrations and blockades across Peru, particularly in rural areas where he has strong support.

Protesters are demanding the former president’s release, early and quick elections, Boluarte’s resignation and the dissolution of Congress, which has an overwhelming disapproval rate.

On Tuesday night, Peruvian lawmakers approved a proposal backed by Boluarte to postpone presidential and congressional elections to April 2024. They were originally planned for 2026.

The plan, which would add an article to Peru’s constitution, must be ratified by another two-thirds majority in the next annual legislative session to be adopted.

“Don’t be blind,” Boluarte said over the weekend, as he urged lawmakers to listen to Peruvians’ demand for early elections. “Look at people and act on what they are asking.”

Last week, the Boluarte government also declared a 30-day national emergency to try to contain the unrest, which has killed at least 21 people and injured hundreds. The Peruvian authorities’ crackdown on the protests has also drawn criticism and calls for restraint from human rights groups and international observers.

Protesters continue to protest despite a government proposal to bring forward elections following the overthrow of Peruvian leader Pedro Castillo, in Lima, Peru, December 13, 2022.
Demonstrators protest in Peru’s capital Lima on December 13, 2022 [Alessandro Cinque/Reuters]

As Boluarte seeks to restore order, his caretaker government faces growing tensions with other leftist leaders in the region, most notably Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, who supported Castillo.

On Tuesday, Peru announced it was expelling Mexico’s ambassador and gave him 72 hours to leave in protest at what it said was López Obrador’s repeated and “unacceptable interference” in Peru’s internal affairs.

“The Mexican president’s statements are especially serious considering the violence in our country, which is incompatible with the legitimate right of every individual to peacefully protest,” the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

A day later, the Mexican president, widely known as AMLO, said that Mexico would not break relations with Peru. “We are not going to expel anyone,” he told reporters.

The diplomatic spat developed after Mexican officials said they would grant asylum to members of Castillo’s family.

The former president of Peru tried to seek refuge at the Mexican embassy in Lima after being impeached on Dec. 7, AMLO said, but Castillo was arrested before he reached the building.

On Wednesday morning, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard posted a photo on Twitter showing Castillo’s wife, Lilia Paredes, and their son and daughter at the Mexico City airport after their arrival from Lima.

AMLO said the “doors are open” in Mexico for Castillo, who has been in pre-trial detention for 18 months. He rejected the allegations against him.