Prime minister resigns

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peru's prime minister Salomón Lerner resigned unexpectedly on Saturday (Dec 10).

Interior minister Óscar Valdés was sworn in as his replacement on Sunday, the government said in a statement.

"Our line has been dialogue and the search for consensus, avoiding confrontation among Peruvians and that reaffirms our democratic life and vocation," Lerner said in his resignation letter, which was published by local press.

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Together with finance and economy (MEF) minister Luis Miguel Castilla, Lerner was seen as a key figure in the administration as his centrist policies helped to bolster investor confidence after the left-leaning Humala took office in July.

Following his designation, Valdés said that the cabinet reshuffle was not a government crisis but a normal adjustment. He also confirmed that Castilla would remain as MEF minister and that Carolina Trivelli would stay on as the minister of development and social inclusion.

Valdés is a former army officer and some fear his appointment might mean the government intends to take a harder line with social protests that have spread throughout the country in recent months.

Lerner's departure comes amid negotiations, in which he had a prominent role, with protestors who forced the recent suspension of US-based Newmont Mining's (NYSE: NEM) US$4.8bn Minas Conga gold-copper project in Cajamarca region.

Last Sunday (Dec 4) President Ollanta Humala declared a state of emergency in the region in a bid to restore order.