Peru’s new president reshuffles cabinet as ties to Mexico are tested | Protests News

Peru’s new president, Dina Boluarte, announced a partial cabinet reshuffle, hours after lawmakers tentatively endorsed a plan to move elections earlier in a bid to quell protests that began after the ouster of Boluarte’s predecessor.

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

Alex Contreras remained as Minister of the Economy and Oscar Vera will remain as Minister of Energy and Mines.

The changes came two weeks after Peru’s opposition-led congress voted to remove President Pedro Castillo from office in the third impeachment attempt of the left-wing leader’s embattled presidency.

Shortly before his impeachment trial, 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 dismissal.

Castillo’s removal, along with his subsequent arrest and pretrial detention on charges of rebellion and conspiracy, have sparked demonstrations and blockades across Peru, particularly in rural areas, where he has strong support.

Protesters have demanded the release of the former president, snap snap elections, the resignation of Boluarte and the dissolution of Congress, which has an overwhelming disapproval rating.

On Tuesday night, Peruvian lawmakers approved a Boluarte-backed proposal to move up the presidential and congressional elections to April 2024. They were originally scheduled for 2026.

The plan, which would add an article to Peru’s constitution, must be ratified by another two-thirds majority at the next annual legislative session for it 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 in line with what they are asking for.”

Last week, the Boluarte administration also enacted a 30-day national state of emergency to try to stop the unrest, which has killed at least 21 people and injured hundreds. The repression of the protests by the Peruvian authorities has also generated criticism and calls for restraint from human rights groups and international observers.

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

As Boluarte seeks to restore order, his interim government faces growing tensions with other leftist leaders in the region, notably Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has spoken out in favor of Castillo.

On Tuesday, Peru announced it would expel 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 statements by the Mexican president are especially serious considering the violence in our country, which is incompatible with the legitimate right of every person to demonstrate peacefully,” Peru’s 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 dispute developed after Mexican officials said they would grant asylum to members of Castillo’s family.

The former president of Peru had tried to seek refuge in the Mexican embassy in Lima after he was ousted on December 7, AMLO said, but Castillo was arrested before he could reach 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 that the “doors of Mexico are open” also for Castillo, who has been in pretrial detention for 18 months. He has denied the accusations against him.

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