June 24, 2014 / 1:52 AM / 5 years ago

Peru's President Humala reshuffles cabinet as popularity sinks

Peru's President Ollanta Humala (C) poses next to his wife Nadine Heredia and ministers after the swearing-in ceremony of new cabinet members at the government palace in Lima, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s President Ollanta Humala replaced his foreign affairs, interior and transportation ministers on Monday in a surprise cabinet shake-up as his popularity sinks to new lows.

Humala swore in Gonzalo Gutierrez, Peru’s ambassador to top trade partner China, as his new foreign affairs minister. Daniel Urresti, currently the czar in charge of preventing illegal mining, will become the sixth interior minister.

Jose Gallardo, an economist on the board of the central bank, became Humala’s new transportation and communications minister.

Humala, a former left-leaning military officer who turned to the right after being elected to the country’s top job in July 2011, did not say why he made the replacements.

Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal remained in power despite speculation he might step down after Humala proposed weakening some of his ministry’s functions in an economic reform package delivered to Congress.

Humala has reshuffled his cabinet several times in his nearly three-year administration, as disappointment with unfulfilled electoral promises, concerns about crime and corruption and relatively sluggish economic growth over the past year have deflated his popularity.

Humala’s approval rating slipped to 21 percent this month - a new low in his administration, according to an Ipsos poll. Those surveyed listed public safety and government corruption as top complaints.

Previous Peruvian presidents have governed with single-digit approval ratings.

Presidents in Peru, who cannot serve two consecutive terms, traditionally make cabinet changes in July and December.

Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker

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