Kuczynski Appoints New Defense and Culture Ministers

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Defense minister Jorge Nieto, President Kuczynski, Culture minister Salvador del Solar and Cabinet chief Fernando Zavala. Photo: Presidency

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski swore in two new ministers on Monday, the first shift in his cabinet since his inauguration in July.

Jorge Nieto, who headed the Ministry of Culture since July and was pleased with his results so far, has taken on the Defense portfolio a full week after his predecessor, Mariano Gonzalez, resigned.  Gonzalez was asked to resign after a local TV program reported that he had promoted to his team of advisors a woman with whom he had a romantic relationship.

Nieto is expected to add greater political weight to the Defense ministry and to the cabinet in general, according to Jorge Aragon of the Peruvian Studies Institute, IEP, in an interview with Semana Económica.  Aragon sees this choice as a sign of Kuczynski’s willingness to do battle with the Fujimorista majority in Congress.

A sociologist and author of several books, Nieto was a member of the Peruvian Communist Party in the 1970s, a participant on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s team, and a former director at UNESCO of the unit for the culture of governance and democracy. As Culture minister, he was recently successful with the minister of Justice in finding solutions with the indigenous population in the northern Amazon of Saramurillo after the Petroperu oil spills.   His first task in Defense will be to oversee investigations into the management and supplies in the VRAEM, the valleys of the Rivers Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro where remnants of the Shining Path operate with coca producers and drug traffickers.

To replace Nieto in the Ministry of Culture, the President has appointed Salvador del Solar, a popular soap opera and stage actor, as well as a successful film director whose most recent production was  Magallanes, in 2015. The film is based on an Alonso Cueto novel and touches on the ghosts in people’s lives from the years of terrorism in Peru.

Fujimoristas in Congress were quick to criticize Del Solar’s appointment,  but the press and political analysts were generally approving. The new minister took a law degree at the Catolica University in Lima, where he taught political communication for several years, and holds a master’s degree in international relations from Syracuse University, specializing in conflict resolution.  He also directed a socio-political interview program on Canal N TV and is an occasional op-ed contributor to El Comercio on social and political issues.  In March 2015, he wrote a piece on education for growth that defended the viewpoint of the Education minister, Jaime Saavedra, currently under assault by the Congress.

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