Friday, February 3, 2012

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala's Cabinet Shuffle Signals Shift to Right

LADB Article ID: 78473
Category/Department: Peru
Date: 2012-01-20
By: Elsa Chanduví Jaña

Just 136 days into his term, President Ollanta Humala reshuffled his Cabinet, removing the left from the center of power, a move interpreted by many as an indication that the president has given in to pressure from economic power groups.

In the new Cabinet, sworn in on Dec. 11 and headed by the former interior minister, retired Lt. Col. Óscar Valdés Dancuart, 10 new ministers replace ministers from the original Cabinet who had a greater social orientation.

For the Confederación General de Trabajadores del Perú (CGTP) and the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores del Perú (CUT Perú), naming Valdés prime minister shows that the Humala administration is moving to the right and toward militarization.

"There was an internal conflict between the different forces, between those who wanted to maintain the status quo in the service of big business and big capital and those who supported social organizations and progressive forces to make necessary changes to advance democracy," CUT president Juñio César Bazán told the daily La Primera.  "We can see that the policies of coming together and dialogue that are the mechanisms to resolve problems democratically are going to be left aside.  Valdés' record is one of being arbitrary in resolving conflicts, for example, in what happened in Cajamarca to provoke the state of emergency (NotiSur, Dec. 16, 2011)."

Bazán was referring to the social conflict that erupted in November 2011 in the department of Cajamarca, in the northern highlands, because of residents' opposition to the development of the Conga mining project.  They considered it a threat to their water supply and to the preservation of the rich ecosystems in the area.

The government response was to declare a state of emergency in Cajamarca.

The Conga conflict led then Prime Minister Salomón Lerner to tender his resignation to Humala, saying, "Our leadership style has been one of dialogue and a search for consensus, avoiding confrontation among Peruvians, and one that reaffirms our democratic life and vocation."

The head of Perú Posible, former President Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), said that his party had decided to distance itself from Humala's party and therefore it would no longer hold any position in the executive branch of government.  Toledo explained that the alliance had broken with Humala because it did not agree "with the militarization of the government and the confrontation with social conflicts."

New scenario

While business people were pleased with the Cabinet shuffle, political analysts saw it as a turn to the right.
Humberto Speziani, head of the Confederación de Instituciones Empesariales Privadas (CONFIEP), expressed his associates' agreement with the makeup of the new Cabinet, saying, "It's the change that the country needs, less politics and better management, more efficient."

The Convención Nacional del Agro Peruano (CONVEAGRO) supported Luis Ginocchio's appointment as minister of agriculture, calling him a "great expert" who knows national agriculture.
In an interview with the daily La República, leftist sociologist and former Cabinet advisor Sinesio López said, "The government has gone from center-left to center-right.  The president decided to break with the left, whose support got him to the runoff, and, with Toledo, who in a certain way allowed him to win the runoff and become president.  But I think that the most important break is with the popular classes who voted for him."  López added, "In [Peru], those who have lost have always ended up governing."

Political analyst Carlos Meléndez agrees with López, telling La República, "Humala's election was a triumph of the left because it was a triumph of the demands that the left had wanted to raise and could not do so organically so it cut corners and did so using a military outsider."

"The issue is that in our countries elections are won with the left but are governed with the right," added Meléndez.  "Whoever is in the government palace has to look for points of support.  He cannot be supported by the social movement because it is fragmented, so he has to be supported by business people, the financial sector, the armed forces….And those people have a rightist agenda."

Writer Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature, defended Humala's decision to make Cabinet changes.  "It is normal for a president to look for a more cohesive government and one that responds to a unified policy; democracy is not in danger from that," said Vargas Llosa, insisting that the Humala administration is following the "roadmap" that it laid out in the runoff campaign.

It is true that Humala never said he was either leftist or rightist.  Early on he named Luis Miguel Castilla as minister of economy.  Castilla is a 42-year-old economist who studied at Johns Hopkins University and was vice minister of finance during the administration of former President Alan García (1985-1990, 2006-2011) and earlier worked at the World Bank.  His appointment calmed business leaders and investors, who are happy that Humala has ratified Castilla in the new Cabinet.

In that sense, for analysts like Carlos Reyna, "What we have had is a clarification of the direction of the government."

Troubling changes

Lerner's resignation resulted in all officials attached to the Presidencia del Consejo de Ministros (PCM) submitting their resignations, meaning that the changes continue little by little.  The most recent change was that of Ricardo Soberón, president of the Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo y Vida sin Drogas (DEVIDA).Primer Minister Valdés announced on Jan. 10 that the new DEVIDA president would be psychologist Carmen Masías Claux, who had been assistant director of the Centro de Información y Educación para la Prevención del Abuso de Drogas (CEDRO).

In a statement the same day, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Transnational Institute (TNI) recognized Soberón's work at the commission.  "Soberón has played a fundamental role in promoting a debate on drug policy in Peru, proposing new and intelligent lines and incorporating key issues such as human rights and social inclusion.  In addition, he has promoted development of the new Estrategia Nacional de Lucha contra las Drogas 2012-2016, written by DEVIDA under his leadership," said the statement.
Masías Claux has said, however, that she will review the Estrategia, which was awaiting approval by the executive, "with the objective of enriching it."

Soberón was strongly criticized last September when he announced the temporary suspension of eradication of coca fields, since the plan for controlling illegal coca-leaf fields called for "bimonthly pauses" in eradication.  His decision was reversed quickly by then prime minister Lerner.

Soberón's plan to combat illegal drugs included stemming the sale of chemicals used to make cocaine and setting up controls in the customs posts through which drugs leave.  To achieve real and definitive eradications, he said, protocols of action are needed to allow safeguarding the integrity of the police, those involved in the eradication, and coca producers in the drug-trafficking areas.

For the new DEVIDA president, the policy on eradicating illegal coca fields—pushed by the US government—is not DEVIDA's responsibility but that of the Ministerio del Interior.  Masías Claux has indicated that she will put more emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation.

As if responding to Masías Claux, Soberón said in an interview published by Noticias Ser, a publication of Asociación Ser, "I wish her every success but it seems to me a mistake that the body in charge of drug policies in Peru is dedicated to just one aspect and leaves interdiction, control of supply, and eradication in the hands of the police.  To exercise leadership in such a complex area implies having the capacity to see the problem and lead the process and the debate; that is the fundamental aspect that we wanted to stress but it made many uncomfortable."

The appointment of Masías Claux, known as a Fujimorista, is seen as a step backward by those hoping that the Humala administration would apply a more effective and humane anti-drug policy.
Another minister in Humala's new Cabinet who has caused concern among many, especially those in women's organizations, is the lawyer Ana Jara, who has been appointed to head the Ministerio de la Mujer y Desarrollo Social (MIMDES), replacing Aída García Naranjo, a leftist feminist.  Jara is a member of the conservative wing of the Iglesia Evangélica and a member of the Partido Nacionalista Peruano (PNP), founded by Humala.

In an interview with journalist Beto Ortiz on the television program Abre los ojos, Jara insisted that in most rape cases, once the woman has contact with her child, "something supernatural happens," a tie that makes her love the child.  She also came out against the morning-after birth-control pill.

"We think it's necessary to call on the minister to recognize women's human rights a little more and address what her leadership role as minister of women means; if not, we're in an absolutely worrisome context," Jeanette Llaja, legal representative of the Defensa de los Derchos de la Mujer (DEMUS), told the Internet platform La Mula (

Jossy Cárdenas, coordinator of the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Flora Tristan's program on sexual rights and citizenship in health, told the same news outlet, "[Jara], as a public official, has the mission to advocate for women's rights.  We must consider that a protocol set by the state indicates that one method is to provide a woman with emergency oral contraception to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.  If the state does not confront the situation of women who suffer sexual violence and become pregnant as a result, there will be no support for them."

As head of MIMDES, García Naranjo started the campaign "Stop the hand! Machismo kills and mistreats women," which provoked an intense debate in the executive and in Congress regarding whether femicide should be considered aggravated homicide.

On Dec. 1, Congress approved a law stating that "if the victim is or has been the spouse or cohabitant of the perpetrator or linked to him through a similar relationship, it will be considered femicide and will carry a penalty of at least 15 years."

Before passage of the femicide law, not all such crimes were punished equally, because the Penal Code only considered the crime aggravated homicide if the victim was a spouse or domestic partner.  On Jan. 10, the crime of femicide was incorporated into the Penal Code.

Data from the Observatorio de Criminalidad of the Ministerio Publico indicate that 245 women were killed by their partner or former partner between 2009 and 2011.

In addition, women who were allegedly victims of attempted homicide at the hand of their partner or ex-partner will now receive free medical attention.  MIMDES reported that women victims have received free medical attention in hospitals in the departments of Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa.

Still pending is approval of the Plan Nacional de Igualdad de Género 2012-2017, aimed at changing the situation of inequality—for every illiterate man there are three illiterate women, for example—and exclusion that jeopardizes women's rights.

Feminist and women's organizations fear that under the mandate of a new minister the crusade to defend women's rights initiated by her predecessor will be interrupted.