July 23, 2012 / 6:48 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 1-Peru's Humala to shuffle cabinet to calm protests

LIMA, July 23 (Reuters) - Peruvian President Ollanta Humala will shuffle his cabinet on Monday as he seeks to calm a wave of violent anti-mining protests, the country’s health minister and two government sources said.

Humala is widely expected to replace Prime Minister Oscar Valdes, a former army officer who led a crackdown this month on protesters opposed to Newmont Mining’s $5 billion Conga project in the northern region of Cajamarca that killed five people.

Speaking on local radio, Health Minister Alberto Tejada confirmed that a reshuffle would take place on Monday, but gave no details.

Two government sources said the president would likely pick Justice Minister Juan Jimenez, a human rights lawyer, to be the next prime minister.

Besides Valdes, Interior Minister Wilver Calle is expected to be replaced, one of the sources said.

Humala’s economic team, led by Finance Minister Luis Miguel Castilla, is expected to remain intact.

Promoting Jimenez, who served as vice justice minister in the government that led Peru’s transition to democracy in 2000, may help Humala overcome criticism that his government developed a militant, authoritarian streak under Valdes.

Prominent members of Congress have called for Valdes to step down and say the government should emphasize mediation instead of force to solve environmental disputes.

However, a Jimenez-led Cabinet may not pacify regional government leaders who have led anti-mining protests and say Humala has turned his back on the rural poor who largely voted for him.

Jimenez backed Humala’s decision to suspend civil liberties in Cajamarca, where human rights groups have sharply criticized the government’s use of force.

Humala has sought to push ahead with more than $50 billion in planned mining investments in one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies, but has faced stiff resistance from poor rural communities left behind by a decade-long boom.

Peruvian leaders often shuffle their Cabinets on July 28, Peruvian Independence Day, which also will mark the anniversary of Humala’s first year in office. Humala’s approval rating fell to a fresh low of 40 percent this month, according to an Ipsos poll. (Reporting By Patricia Velez and Marco Aquino; Writing by Terry Wade; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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