Salomon Lerner, the Prime Minister of Peru, has surprisingly turned in his resignation over the weekend, according to reports.
President Ollanta Humala has reportedly replaced Lerner, his former campaign manager, with the interior minister, Oscar Valdes, a former military man and Humala's army instructor.
Reuters speculates that by appointing Valdes, Humala may be seeking to impose a more authoritarian-style government in Peru.
There is no crisis in the government, what's happening is that some adjustments are being made, Valdes told Peruvian television.
According to Reuters, Valdes said he plans to reappoint Finance Minister Luis Miguel Castilla, but did not specify other changes.
(Under Peruvian law, when the Prime Minister resigns, the entire cabinet must be replaced).
Cesar Hildebrandt, a political analyst and columnist, told Reuters: Today the president has become an authoritarian strongman, and this is bad.”
Lerner had been involved in negotiating a compromise with protesters over a bitterly-controversial gold and copper mining operation in Cajamarca, in the northern part of the country that has led Humala to call a state of emergency in the area.
The Conga gold mine – valued at $4.8-billion – to be operated by Newmont Mining of the U.S., represents Peru’s largest foreign investment project. BBC reports that the property is estimated to hold deposits valued at $15-billion based on current metal prices.
Humala claims the project will create thousands of jobs. Under emergency, police and the military will have freer rein to make arrests in order to stamp out the protests. Reportedly, it was Valdes who urged the crackdown at Conga.
However, local residents complain that the mining project will ruin the surrounding countryside, create pollution and corrupt local water supplies.
Separately, opposition groups in Peru lambasted the sudden resignation of Lerner as premature.
We are talking about a prime minister who left before even finishing a year in office. This is a failure, Congressman Mauricio Mulder of the center-left American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) party told RPP radio.