Kuczynski changes mining minister in cabinet reshuffle

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who narrowly avoided being impeached last month, swore in a new cabinet including his third energy and mines minister to date in what the embattled head of state hopes is the closing chapter to the country's month-long political turmoil.

Kuczynski swore in nine new ministers, the largest overhaul of his 19 member cabinet since taking office in July 2016, including former energy industry executive Angela Grossheim as energy and mines minister.

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Grossheim replaces Cayetana Aljovín, who held the post since last July. The new minister, who holds an MBA from France's Université Paris-Dauphine, formerly served as deputy energy minister and worked at Israeli electricity company IC Power.

Grossheim will be responsible for the February 20 auction of the Michiquillay copper project and for overseeing another US$10bn in mining investment projects, construction on which the government hopes will start this year.

Aljovín, who inaugurated Shougang's US$230mn Shouxin iron-copper-zinc tailings treatment facility in November, had pushed through legislative changes aimed at accelerating mine permitting. She now takes over at the foreign ministry.

"The past 30 days have been possibly unique in our political life. Today we are living in times of tension," Kuyczynski said at the swearing in ceremony in the presidential palace. "Reconciliation may be a difficult goal to achieve, but I will not cease my efforts to achieve it. We can't continue to lose time or opportunities."

PROTESTS

The so-called reconciliation cabinet became necessary after many of Kuczynski's backers resigned over the controversial Christmas Eve pardon of disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year prison sentence for human rights abuses and corruption.

Lima has been rocked by anti-government protests since Kuczynski pardoned the 89-year-old Fujimori, a move widely seen as part of a political deal with opposition party Fuerza Popular, controlled by Fujimori's daughter Keiko, to avoid being impeached in a December 21 vote.

Kuczynski is being investigated by a congressional panel on charges Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht hired investment funds linked to the president while he was a government official a decade ago. Kuczynski, a veteran investment banker, denies any wrongdoing.

In a sign the new cabinet may achieve little in the way of reconciliation, leftist party Frente Amplio has vowed to seek a new impeachment vote, while former president Alan García's Apra party announced the expulsion of two party members who agreed to form part of Kuczynski's cabinet.

"More than a reconciliation cabinet, it seems like more the president's circle of intimate friends," said political analyst Jaime Antezana. "It's striking that Cayatena Aljovín, for example, has been moved to her third different post in this cabinet, giving the impression they couldn't get anyone else."