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Peru's Kuczynski dares Congress to dismiss entire Cabinet

The government of Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski told opposition lawmakers on Wednesday that they would have to dismiss the entire Cabinet - and move closer to facing removal themselves - if they try to oust a second education minister.

Kuczynski accused the opposition-ruled Congress of trying to sabotage his education reforms as the right-wing Popular Force party prepared a motion to censure Education Minister Marilu Martens over her handling of a teachers strike that dragged on for two months.

The president said ousting Martens would be "completely unfair."

"It would be the second education minister censured and purely over political preferences," Kuczynski said.

By turning the censure vote on Martens into a vote of confidence on his whole Cabinet, Kuczynski hopes to check Popular Force's ability to threaten his ministers.

The president can dissolve Congress if it dismisses the Cabinet twice.

Congress has already forced Kuczynski's former education and finance ministers to resign, while his ex-transportation minister quit to avoid a censure vote.

Popular Force lawmakers said they would study the request for a vote of confidence on the Cabinet and noted they had not yet formally presented the censure motion for Martens - a sign they might back off.

"They're putting the governability of the country at risk over one minister?" said Luz Salgado, an influential lawmaker with Popular Force, which controls Congress. "It's completely irresponsible."

The gamble could force Kuczynski, a former Wall Street banker, to appoint 19 new ministers as he tries to revive the economy and his slipping popularity in opinion polls. However, it might also give him a freer hand to govern during the remaining four years of his term.

A prime minister has not challenged Congress to renew its confidence in a cabinet in decades, said political analyst Fernando Tuesta, underscoring how rapidly relations between the executive branch and Congress have deteriorated in Kuczynski's year-old government.

Kuczynski took office last year after narrowly beating long-time favorite Keiko Fujimori, the eldest daughter of jailed former leader Alberto Fujimori. Kuczynski's party won less than 15 percent of congressional seats while Fujimori's party, Popular Force, won an absolute majority.

[Source: By Reuters Staff, Reuters, Lima, 14Sep17]

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