March 28, 2018 / 4:51 PM / 25 days ago

Peru's Vizcarra to name opposition lawmaker as prime minister -sources

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s new President Martin Vizcarra will appoint an opposition lawmaker as his prime minister next week as he seeks to bridge deep political divides and ensure his administration can govern with the opposition-run Congress, two sources said Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Cesar Villanueva greets during a ceremony at the government palace in Lima, October 31, 2013. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo/File Photo

The centrist lawmaker, Cesar Villanueva, a twice-elected former governor of an Amazonian region, had worked closely with parties on the left and right as he led efforts in Congress to impeach former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

Kuczynski resigned instead amid growing graft allegations and Vizcarra, who had been his vice president, took office on Friday with promises to form a completely new Cabinet and to fight corruption.

Villanueva has accepted the job and is working with Vizcarra to pick the remaining 18 Cabinet ministers, a source close to Vizcarra and a second source in the presidential palace said.

Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement. Vizcarra has said he will swear in his new Cabinet on Monday.

One of his government’s biggest challenges will be repairing relations with Congress, after Kuczynski and the rightwing opposition party Popular Force, the biggest in Congress, clashed repeatedly during his 20 months in office.

Vizcarra, whom most Peruvians could not name two weeks ago, has sought to distance himself from his unpopular predecessor as he tries to build support across the Andean nation of 32 million people.

    Like Vizcarra, Villanueva started his political career far from the capital Lima and as an outsider to the elite social circles that are associated with the center-right government of Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former Wall Street banker.

Villanueva governed the jungle region of San Martin from 2007 to 2013, and served as prime minister for four months in 2013-2014 in the government of former president Ollanta Humala, before resigning over his effort to raise the minimum wage. Humala is now in jail pending trial over money laundering allegations that he denies.

It is unclear if Vizcarra, the former governor of a small mining region, will propose any major changes to current policies. He is widely expected to continue the pro-business policies that have been in place for nearly three decades in Peru, the world’s No. 2 copper producer.

Villanueva, a lawmaker with the small party Alliance for Progress, had called for Kuczynski to be forced from office over his connections to scandal-plagued Brazilian builder Odebrecht, which has acknowledged bribing officials across Latin America.

Kuczynski, whose consulting firm received nearly $800,000 from Odebrecht while he held public office, has denied any wrongdoing and blamed Popular Force for his downfall.

Reporting By Marco Aquino and Mitra Taj; Editing by Frances Kerry

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