LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s President Ollanta Humala appointed new defence and interior ministers on Monday after the former heads of counter-insurgency strategy resigned over clashes between armed forces and Shining Path rebels.
Humala, a former army officer, appointed William Calle to replace Daniel Lozada as interior minister. Calle is a retired general, like Prime Minister Oscar Valdes.
Adding a second general to the Cabinet is likely a show of force from Humala to show ending the 40-year-old Shining Path insurgency is still a priority, even after sharp criticism for his government’s strategy in a region of lawless jungle valleys rife with cocaine trafficking.
Former production Minister Luis Urquizo will take over as defence minister, succeeding Alberto Otarola.
Opposition lawmakers had said they had enough votes in Congress to oust Otarola and Lozada after 10 soldiers and police died fighting Shining Path rebels in recent weeks, provoking public outcry.
Humala made no declarations after the swearing in ceremony. He deployed more troops to south-central Peru after rebels kidnapped 36 natural gas workers last month.
But the rebels embarrassed his government by releasing the workers and telling journalists they had only taken hostages to lure government forces into ambushes.
Critics say Peru’s armed forces are not prepared to take on the Shining Path rebels, even though they no longer threaten state stability.
Shining Path’s Maoist founders were captured in the early 1990s when Humala fought against them in a conflict that killed around 70,000 people. Remnant bands of rebels have since aligned with drug traffickers in the world’s No. 1 cocaine exporter.
Reporting by Marco Aquino and Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Lisa Shumaker