Page last updated at 22:33 GMT, Saturday, 11 October 2008 23:33 UK

Peru's president appoints new PM

By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

Peruvian President Alan Garcia, file pic
President Garcia's popularity is at its lowest level since he took office

Peru's President Alan Garcia has appointed a leftist regional governor, Yehude Simon, as his prime minister.

Mr Garcia's choice appears to be a move intended to regain public trust after Friday's resignation of his entire cabinet over an oil corruption scandal.

It also seems intended to neutralise leftist critics of Mr Garcia - whose popularity has dropped to a new low.

But the choice of Mr Simon, who served time in jail for alleged links to left-wing rebels, has shocked many.

He had been under tremendous pressure to shake up his cabinet after audio tapes leaked to the media implicated members of the governing Apra party in bribe-taking for rigging multi-million dollar oil contracts.

Former Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo was mentioned in two of the tapes.

He denied any wrongdoing, but his position became untenable after protests from the opposition and general public.

Corruption complaints

The new prime minister, 61, said he wanted to build an alliance between the left and the government.

"I want to build a great alliance, friendship between sectors of the left and the government," Reuters reported him as telling Peruvian radio.

Alan Garcia, (R), embraces his former Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo in Lima, 10 October 2008
Former PM Jorge del Castillo (L) was mentioned in two of the tapes

"I have no doubt that businessmen of the so-called right will also draw near. The country needs a truce."

A popular regional governor of the northern province of Lambayeque, Mr Simon has a reputation for transparency and for improving healthcare and education standards.

He was pardoned after serving eight years in prison in the 1990s on suspicion of belonging to the Tupac Amaru revolutionary movement.

The movement was the smaller of two rebel groups which wreaked havoc in Peru for two decades.

Critics say booming economic growth has failed to ease poverty for millions of Peruvians, while polls say corruption is the public's top complaint.

Midway through his term as president, Mr Garcia's popularity is at its lowest level since he took office, especially outside the capital Lima.

Mr Simon's appointment may just be the radical step needed to restore the government's reputation.

Oil row brings down Peru cabinet
10 Oct 08 |  Americas
Protesters decry Peru corruption
08 Oct 08 |  Americas
Oil contract scandal shakes Peru
07 Oct 08 |  Americas
Peruvian tribes end land protests
21 Aug 08 |  Americas
Country profile: Peru
06 Jun 08 |  Country profiles

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