Who cuts the mustard in the Vizcarra administration?

30 June 2018

Despite a few months of relative calm in government, tensions seem to be building between the erstwhile supporters of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and the prime minister, César Villanueva.

Last week Mercedes Aráoz, the former prime minister and (still) vice-president of the republic raised her voice in public claiming that the congressional bloc known as Peruanos por el Kambio (PpK) was being left out in the cold by Villanueva and his ministers. She said that the grouping was “not being taken into account” and that Villanueva was behaving “with disdain” towards them. 

PpK constituted the government benches during the Kuczynski government, even though it was often disunited and lacked any strong leadership. Its influence was small given the absolute majority of seats held by Fuerza Popular (FP), the fujimorista opposition.

Since Vizcarra and Villanueva took over, PpK has been left largely out of the picture. To remedy matters, on 26 June there was a meeting between Vizcarra and PpK parliamentarians in an upmarket restaurant in San Isidro, at which Villanueva was notably absent. More regular meetings between the executive and the party grouping have been scheduled. 

Villanueva’s close ties to FP are no secret, and he is accused among some PpKausas to have effectively stabbed Kuczynski in the back when he was forced to resign in March. However, after weeks of aligning policy closely with the wishes of FP, the Vizcarra administration has shown signs of distancing itself. Vizcarra personally opposed legislation that would ban state publicity and advertising in the privately-owned media, the so-called ‘Gagging Law’ (Ley Mordaza). He has also made clear the need for better regulation of financial cooperatives through which drug money is apparently laundered. Leading Fujimosristas opposed this.

How Vizcarra proposes to navigate his way between the supporters of Kuczynski and the leaders of FP remains unclear. The course he follows may well be erratic, but it would seem that he cannot afford to cut ties altogether with the latter. So Villanueva is likely to continue siding with the Fujimoristas, aware that the supporters of Kuczynski simply do not cut the mustard.

Meanwhile Kuczynski himself has vanished from the political scene; he may well have to respond to charges against him over suspicious business practices when he was a minister under Toledo and for having received money from Odebrecht to help fund his 2011 election campaign.

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