President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski barely survived an impeachment vote by congress last week, and that was before he pardoned his disgraced predecessor. Analysts say his grip on power is weakening.

Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski set off protests at home and abroad with a Christmas Eve pardon of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori in what many Peruvians viewed as a political gift. December 25, 2017.
Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski set off protests at home and abroad with a Christmas Eve pardon of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori in what many Peruvians viewed as a political gift. December 25, 2017. (AP)

Peru's centre-right President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski may reshuffle his cabinet in coming days, after triggering an outcry by pardoning former authoritarian leader Alberto Fujimori, the prime minister announced on Wednesday.

Mercedes Araoz said Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former Wall Street investor, had asked her to remain at the helm of the Cabinet and to look for ways to strengthen it.

"The president asked me to carry out a comprehensive review and we'll see what happens in coming days," Araoz said at a press conference, her first public appearance since Fujimori's pardon on Christmas Eve.

In the past two weeks, the political situation in top metals exporter Peru has turned volatile, after the opposition-ruled Congress sought to oust Kuczynski in the wake of a graft scandal.

Kuczynski was saved from the vote by Fujimori loyalists. Two days later, he pardoned the ailing ex-president for graft and human rights abuse-related crimes.

That move sparked violent protests and political resignations, as opponents alleged the pardon was payback for keeping Kuczynski in office.

It was not clear which ministers may be vulnerable in any reshuffle, but a shake-up could herald a further tilt to the right for Kuczynski's government, as former left-leaning supporters denounced him as a "traitor" for pardoning Fujimori.

A controversial pardon

Fujimori was in stable condition at a hospital in Lima, where he was rushed from prison on Saturday to undergo treatment for life-threatening blood pressure and heart problems, according to his doctor.


Peru's former President Alberto Fujimori asks for forgiveness from Peruvians as he lies in a hospital bed in Lima, Peru. Still image from video posted to Facebook on December 26, 2017.
Peru's former President Alberto Fujimori asks for forgiveness from Peruvians as he lies in a hospital bed in Lima, Peru. Still image from video posted to Facebook on December 26, 2017. (Reuters)

Araoz said she respected Kuczynski's decision to pardon Fujimori, and stressed he had been evaluating it long before the vote to oust him in Congress.

"Neither I nor any member of my Cabinet nor the ruling party Peruvians for Change took part in any negotiation to trade a humanitarian pardon [for votes]," said Araoz.

Fujimori had served 12 years of a 25-year sentence for corruption and human rights crimes in his 1990-2000 right-wing government. Kuczynski's decision cleared him of convictions and shields him from being tried in pending judicial processes.

Fujimori is reviled by many who consider him a corrupt dictator, but admired by others who credit him with saving Peru from an economic crisis and leftist insurgency.

Resignations in protest

Culture minister Salvador del Solar on Wednesday announced his resignation on Twitter – the first cabinet member to quit since the pardon was granted on Sunday.

A presidential adviser, at least three justice ministry officials and two state media personalities have also stepped down. Three ruling party lawmakers announced their resignations earlier this week, as the pardon triggered two days of unrest.

Fujimori's opponents planned a new protest on Thursday.

Source: Reuters