New cabinet? Not much that's new

13 January 2018

It took President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski two weeks from announcing a cabinet reshuffle to naming the people who would fill the various posts. Labelled somewhat euphemistically ‘a cabinet of reconciliation’, it ended up being ‘more of the same’. Indeed, the new cabinet is probably of an even narrower base than its predecessor, effectively divorced from civil society and the rest of the political class.

There were eight new appointments, less than half the total cabinet. Almost all the parties with representation in Congress refused to have anything to do with the appointments, whether out of rejection for the pardon (indulto) conceded to former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) or in the belief that this government has little future.

Most of the new appointments were of people closely associated with Kuczynski, offering little by way of ‘reconciliation’ with anything. Only three of the new appointments have any political experience; the rest are either redeployed administrators or people brought in from the private sector.

The two new cabinet members brought in from outside the PPK camp were from APRA: Abel Salinas and Javier Barreda, but they were expelled from their party no sooner than their acceptance was announced: not much reconciliation there. The new defence minister, retired air force general Jorge Kisic, had been given a three-year suspended sentence in 2015 for his role in an embezzlement scandal at the Caja Militar during the Montesinos era. His prohibition against public office expired only last October. 

Early indications, as politics as usual resume after the New Year break, is that the government will face an uncompromisingly hostile opposition, not just from the pro-Fujimori right (plus APRA) but also from the left. The size of this week’s demonstration shows clearly the depth of popular resentment at the presidential indulto and its beneficiary who took to twitter no sooner than discharged from hospital.

With Odebracht’s Jorge Barata likely to provide more compromising information in the next few weeks, many now expect that further information regarding Kuczynski’s relationship with the Brazilian construction company could lead to a further attempt to impeach him.

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