Peru's Vizcarra to swear in new cabinet amid political crisis

The move comes as a dramatic challenge to the president's leadership by dismissed politicians appeared to fizzle out.

    Peru's President Vizcarra delivers a national message at Government Palace, after an emergency cabinet meeting in Lima [File: Martin Mejia/AP]
    Peru's President Vizcarra delivers a national message at Government Palace, after an emergency cabinet meeting in Lima [File: Martin Mejia/AP]

    Peru's centrist President Martin Vizcarra will unveil a new cabinet on Thursday as a dramatic challenge to his leadership by dozens of dismissed politicians earlier this week appeared to fizzle out.

    No public institution or foreign power has backed the right-wing opposition's charge that Vizcarra illegally dissolved Congress on Monday by invoking a nuclear option in the constitution that also forced him to replace his cabinet.

    At a ceremony at the presidential palace, Vizcarra will swear in 19 ministers, including Harvard-trained public administrator Maria Antonieta Alva as the new finance minister, two sources who asked not to be named told Reuters news agency.

    It was the latest sign that Peru, the world's number two copper producer and one of Latin America's most open economies, was moving on from its worst political crisis in two decades, with dismissed politicians' cries of "coup" fading from headlines in local media.

    Peru's electoral authority said it was organising new legislative elections for January 26, a timeline proposed by Vizcarra that the Organization of American States called "a constructive step" towards overcoming the crisis. 

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    Police have largely lifted a lockdown on streets in downtown Lima, where thousands of Vizcarra's supporters rallied to demand former politicians physically leave Congress earlier this week.

    Former legislators who refuse to recognise Vizcarra as president have said they will ask the country's top court, the Constitutional Tribunal, to intervene. But their critics warn they could face criminal charges for continuing to insist they are still legislators.

    Year-long standoff

    The opposition's attempt earlier this week to anoint Vice President Mercedes Araoz as interim president fell apart after Vizcarra supporters charged her with the usurpation of functions and the military and police reaffirmed their loyalty to Vizcarra.

    Vizcarra said his decision to dissolve Congress and call for new legislative elections was a constitutional and necessary way to end a year-long standoff with the opposition over his proposed reforms for stamping out entrenched corruption. 

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    He blamed the majority opposition party Popular Force, led by jailed former presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori, of trying to use democratic institutions to shield their members and allies from criminal investigations.

    The opposition says Vizcarra has fanned widespread outrage over back-to-back corruption scandals in recent years to orchestrate an unconstitutional power grab.

    Vizcarra has not yet commented publicly on defiant legislators as he has focused on reshuffling his cabinet.

    On the eve of the swearing-in ceremony, new Prime Minister Vicente Zeballos said the cabinet would continue to preserve the country's decades-old free-market economic model.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency