Two Peruvian ministers resign over Shining Path clashes

Peru's defense and interior ministers resigned on Thursday after clashes between armed forces and Shining Path rebels provoked public outcry over security strategy,

Two Peruvian ministers resign over Shining Path clashes

Peru's defense and interior ministers resigned on Thursday after clashes between armed forces and Shining Path rebels provoked public outcry over security strategy, opening the door to further cabinet changes.

Opposition lawmakers called for the resignations after 10 soldiers and police died in recent weeks in a string of jungle valleys where rebels traffic cocaine and last month took 36 natural gas workers hostage.

"Recent events have led me to make this decision so that our government, our national representation and the people are united around our law enforcement and give them the support they need to successfully meet this new threat of narcotics-related crime," Alberto Otarola, the defense minister, told reporters.

Lawmakers confirmed the resignation of Interior Minister Daniel Lozada. They had said Congress had enough votes to oust the two ministers, who had been scheduled to appear before lawmakers on Saturday.

Congressional support to remove the ministers is a blow to President Ollanta Humala. His Gana Peru, or Win Peru, party does not have a majority in Congress but has been able to pass laws promised during his campaign, including raising taxes on mining firms, by forming coalitions.

Prime Minister Oscar Valdes said earlier he would ask Humala to consider whether he should remain in his post if lawmakers removed the two ministers.

"I have put my resignation in the president's hands," Valdes told local television before the ministers resigned.

Humala, who abandoned his one-time leftist rhetoric and has governed from the center since taking office in July, was traveling to South Korea on a trip to promote investment in Peru's fast-growing economy.

He tapped fellow former army officer Valdes to lead a new Cabinet in December to reflect a tougher line on law and order following anti-mining protests in the rural North.

Shining Path resurgence

Humala also has made ending the 40-year-old Shining Path insurgency a priority and deployed more troops to south-central Peru to respond to last month's kidnapping.

Critics say Peru's armed forces are not prepared to take on the rebels, who said they had captured and released the natural gas workers merely to lure soldiers into an ambush.

Shining Path no longer threatens state stability and had not staged a large-scale kidnapping since 2003. Its Maoist founders were captured in the early 1990s.

But small rebel units remain active and have aligned with drug traffickers in the world's No. 1 cocaine exporter. Securing the area is important for Humala's economic plans as construction is scheduled to start on a natural gas pipeline that will feed a petrochemical complex on the Pacific coast.

Cries for the resignations of the defense and interior ministers, who oversee counter-insurgency strategy, grew louder after a police helicopter crashed due to apparent mechanical failure on Wednesday, killing one.

"These ministers have failed," said opposition lawmaker Carlos Bruce, "and our soldiers keep getting killed."

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Mayıs 2012, 14:51

Muhammed Öylek

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