Embattled Peruvian president names ‘reconciliation cabinet’

January 10, 2018

Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, left, laughs with new Foreign Minister Cayetana Aljovin, center, during the swearing in ceremony for Kuczynski's new cabinet, at the government palace in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. Kuczynski has named a new "cabinet of reconciliation" following his close brush with impeachment and controversial pardon of a former president convicted of human rights abuses. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

LIMA, Peru (AP) — President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski swore in new Cabinet ministers Tuesday, saying he will seek to bring reconciliation in Peru following his close brush with impeachment and controversial pardon of a former president convicted of human rights abuses.

The embattled president replaced nearly half of his 19-member Cabinet with new leaders from the public and private sector, though no one was named from the opposition party that spearheaded the impeachment campaign in December.

“Perhaps reconciliation is a difficult objective to achieve, but I promise I will not cease for one second in my efforts to obtain it,” Kuczynski said in a speech following the swearing-in ceremony.

The new appointments come during one of this Andean nation’s most politically turbulent moments in nearly two decades.

Kuczynski narrowly escaped impeachment after opposition lawmakers revealed that his private consulting business had received payments from the Brazilian construction company at the center of Latin America’s largest corruption scandal while he was as a high-ranking Cabinet minister. Days later he gave a medical pardon that freed former President Alberto Fujimori less than halfway through his 25-year prison sentence, sparking nationwide protests.

Kuczynski announced in late December that he would name a new “Cabinet of reconciliation,” though one analyst said Tuesday that the new appointments were more like an “emergency Cabinet.”

“There is a lot of uncertainty,” political scientist Fernando Rospigliosi said. “What everyone hopes is that the new Cabinet has an objective to achieve. And in this case that does not exist.”

The deeply unpopular president’s government is considered highly vulnerable, burdened by a low approval rating, a criminal investigation into his connections with the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and a credibility crisis following his pardon of Fujimori on Christmas Eve. Lawmakers in congress have vowed to renew their efforts to impeach him.

Kuczynski announced he was pardoning the 79-year-old Fujimori on humanitarian grounds three days after the impeachment vote in which 10 members of Fujimori’s party unexpectedly abstained. Polls say a majority of Peruvians believe a behind-the-scene deal was struck between Kuczynski and Fujimori’s lawmaker son, though the president’s allies have denied there was any deal.

Several prominent members of Kuczynski’s Cabinet resigned after the impeachment vote and the pardon, making some of the new appointments forced replacements.

Fujimori’s pardon reopened old wounds from a bloody period in Peru’s history. The former strongman was convicted for his role in the killings of 25 people, including an 8-year-old boy, during his decade-long rule. He was also later found guilty of having had knowledge of the existence of death squads financed with public money that killed civilians accused of being Shining Path members.

Some Peruvians credit Fujimori with stabilizing the economy and defeating the country’s Maoist guerrillas, but others condemn him for permitting widespread human rights violations.

Human rights organizations have decried his pardon.

Update hourly