Colombian Cabinet Rebel Gaviria Out in Petro’s First Shakeup

(Bloomberg) -- Colombia’s education minister left the government in the first cabinet shakeup since President Gustavo Petro took office in August, as the leftist leader’s radical plans to reform the pension and health systems alienate key allies.

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The minister, Alejandro Gaviria, is the highest profile among three cabinet changes that Petro announced late Monday, which also included sports minister Maria Isabel Urrutia and Culture Minister Patricia Ariza.

“We are at a decisive moment for our reforms and we need more cohesion and determination,” Petro said, in a national address.

Gaviria, a former health minister in the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, had openly rebelled against the proposal to slash the role of private health insurance companies. Other ministers who had expressed reservations about the plans, including Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, stayed on in government after Monday’s announcement.

Read more: Petro Faces Cabinet Pushback Over Colombian Health Reform

Petro is also seeking to increase the role of the state in the pension system, and increase employee labor rights.

If Petro can get the health bill through, it will strengthen his position as he seeks to pass his pension system and labor bills ahead of local elections in October. A defeat, on the other hand, would weaken his seven-month-old government, undermining its chances of getting the other reforms through.

Gaviria’s replacement Aurora Vergara is a sociologist who studied at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, according to El Tiempo newspaper.

(Adds Petro quote in third paragraph.)

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