Colombia's Santos names new cabinet for peace and post conflict

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos named a new cabinet on Monday to strengthen his government as peace talks with Marxist FARC rebels enter their final phase and as the economy struggles with slumping oil revenue and increasing inflation.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos addresses a United Nations General Assembly special session on the world drug problem at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., April 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Santos said the new line-up would be “a cabinet of peace” and “one that would consolidate the economy.” He called on each new minister to help the nation navigate a post-conflict period once there is an end to five decades of war with the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

“Colombia today lives in a very special moment, when we are nearing peace, when post-conflict and its challenges and opportunities are looming, and when we continue to strengthen our economy, reducing poverty and inequality,” Santos said in a televised address.

“For this particular moment I have decided to make some changes to the cabinet to ensure that in the coming months we get ever closer to those objectives.”

The entire cabinet resigned last week, standard procedure before the president shuffles his cabinet.

The cabinet shuffle comes as the center-right Santos’ approval ratings have slumped and talks with the FARC failed to meet a self-imposed March 23 deadline.

While Colombians are enthusiastic at the prospect of an end to the conflict that has killed more than 220,000 people since it began in 1964, they have become impatient at the pace of talks coupled with a slowing economy, high inflation and the prospect of additional taxes.

The government will send to congress later this year a tax reform that will seek to fill a financing gap left by declining revenue as global oil prices slumped.

Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas kept his post in the cabinet, as did Defense Minister Luis Carlos and Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin.

Among new appointments are Jorge Londono as justice minister, Clara Lopez as labor minister, and Maria Claudia Lacouture as trade and tourism minister. Santos named German Arce as the new mines and energy minister last week.

Reporting by Helen Murphy; Editing by David Gregorio