LIMA, March 15 Peruvian President Ollanta Humala
on Saturday urged Congress to back his new cabinet after a vote
to ratify it failed to pass as some lawmakers complained it
reflected meddling by the first lady in the government.
In a sign of his willigness to work with Congress, Humala, a
former left-leaning nationalist who turned to the right after
being elected in 2011, said all of the ministers in the new
cabinet would resign if necessary, a step that would be required
if he were to reshuffle again.
Some ministers would likely be reinstated if the stalemate
ends with the second cabinet reshuffle so far this year.
The political crisis, which comes as the economy has slowed
on weak mineral exports and Humala's popularity slips, followed
ministers' presentations in a 16-hour congressional session that
ended without the votes needed to formally install Prime
Minister Rene Cornejo's cabinet.
Cornejo, Humala's fifth prime minister in less than three
years, is widely seen as having been picked by first lady Nadine
Heredia in a controversial cabinet shuffle on Feb. 25.
Heredia is Humala's adviser and the co-founder and current
leader of his party. Critics say she wields too much power for
an unelected official and is using her husband's presidency to
carve her own path to the country's top job, which she denies.
Earlier this week Humala called allegations that Heredia
holds the real power in his government part of a "disgusting
campaign" against her.
Despite two votes late on Friday, most lawmakers abstained
from a vote to ratify the new cabinet - leaving Humala's
government in limbo.
With his ministers behind him, a tired-looking Humala pushed
Congress for clarity in a televised speech.
"The cabinet went to Congress in good faith, and I think
that was not reciprocated," Humala said.
"It's important to understand that this attitude brings
instability to the country," he said. "It brings instability to
the political economy, to investments and to all the good things
The president of Congress, Fredy Otarola, said Congress will
vote on the new cabinet again on Monday.
Humala's scramble to formalize his cabinet underscores his
waning political power in recent weeks after a public spat
between his top ministers and his wife.
Humala controls the biggest block of votes in Congress
through a coalition with other parties but not enough to
overcome the opposition, which demanded the first lady stop
allegedly meddling in government affairs.
"This is a message calling on the presidential position to
be strengthened," said Congresswoman Martha Chavez of the
political party led by jailed former president Alberto Fujimori.
It has been more than two decades since the one-chamber
parliament has not given a president's cabinet a vote of
confidence as required by the constitution.
ATTACKS ON CORNEJO
A slew of opposition lawmakers on Friday attacked Cornejo -
a technocrat who has remained in the cabinet since Humala
assumed power in 2011 - saying he is a frontman for Heredia.
Cornejo has repeatedly denied that.
"There is no parallel power," Cornejo said on Twitter.
"Decisions are made by President Ollanta Humala, the cabinet
chief and his ministers."
Heredia had kept a lower public profile for nearly a year
after vowing not to run for president in elections in 2016 when
her husband cannot run for a second term.
But she returned to the public spotlight in the last cabinet
reshuffle, after she and Finance Minister Luis Miguel Castilla
denied the government was considering raising the minimum wage
as claimed by former Prime Minister Cesar Villanueva.
Castilla, a former World Bank economist widely respected by
investors, remained in power. Villanueva stepped down and later
said Heredia was calling all the shots.
(Reporting By Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; Editing by Cynthia