Peru’s Prime Minister Salomón Lerner resigned Dec. 10 after less than five months in the post—immediately after his failed attempts to negotiate an end to protests that have blocked the $4.8 billion Conga gold mining project in Cajamarca region. His resignation letter, posted online by the newspaper La Republica, does not make direct reference to the conflict but suggests Lerner was unhappy with the government’s handling of it. The letter states that “our direct mandate has been dialogue and the seeking of consensus to avoid confrontation between Peruvians.” But it charges that this aim “requires an adjustment of the general conduct of the government.”
The decision brings down the government, as under law the entire cabinet must follow suit and step down. President Ollanta Humala must now form a new cabinet. Reports say Lerner, who had been Humala’s campaign manager, has been replaced by the interior minister, Oscar Valdés, a former military officer who served as Humala’s instructor in the army in the 1980s. The Interior Ministry controls Peru’s militarized National Police force, which has been augmented in Cajamarca in response to the protests there.
The fate of the Conga project is considered key to prospects for other mining investments in Peru, which gets 61% of export income from the sector. Lerner played a leading role in brokering industry acceptance of a new windfall tax that Humala says will help underwrite his promised social programs. (AP, BBC News, La Republica, Dec. 10)
See our last post on the struggle in Peru.