Peru's Kuczynski eyes VP for prime minister after cabinet ousted: sources

By Mitra Taj LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's center-right President Pedro Kuczynski is considering appointing Vice President Martin Vizcarra as his new prime minister in a new Cabinet he will swear in on Sunday to replace the one Congress ousted, two government sources said Friday. Kuczynski is also eyeing Claudia Cooper as his new finance minister, one of the sources said. A third source also confirmed Cooper, currently deputy economy minister, was being considered. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because a final decision had not been made. Early on Friday, the opposition-ruled Congress voted 77-22 to dismiss Kuczynski's Cabinet in a motion of no-confidence, deepening a political standoff that could lead to new legislative elections if lawmakers reject the next cabinet. The crisis forced Kuczynski to cancel his trip to New York City, where he planned to dine with U.S. President Donald Trump and deliver a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. It also threatens to stifle a nascent economic recovery in the world's No.2 copper producer following a sharp slowdown early this year. Accusing the opposition of undermining his policies, especially on education, Kuczynski told Peruvians in a televised speech that he would keep working to better their lives. "That's the mandate I have until July 28, 2021 and I won't retreat one millimeter in that goal," said Kuczynski, a former Wall Street banker who narrowly won last year's election. Kuczynski did not announce any cabinet appointments. While he cannot rename outgoing Prime Minister Fernando Zavala as prime minister, Kuczynski can reappoint other cabinet members. Zavala, who faced criticism that he was too much of a technocrat, has doubled as finance minister since Congress ousted the previous finance minister in June. Lawmakers with the opposition party Popular Force warned Kuczynski not to fill his cabinet with old faces. The rightwing populist party has a majority in Congress and is led by Kuczynski's defeated electoral rival, Keiko Fujimori, the eldest daughter of jailed former autocratic president Alberto Fujimori. Appointing Vizcarra, a former governor of a mining region, could gratify lawmakers who have called for a cabinet with more political experience. But it might also anger Popular Force after the party pressured Vizcarra to resign as transportation minister over a proposed change to an airport contract. Cooper was also criticized by the opposition in the controversy. New legislative elections might provide an opening for anti-establishment parties with support for Kuczynski's government and Congress falling in opinion polls. Despite the sparring, Kuczynski and Fujimori both support free-market economic policies. Central Bank President Julio Velarde made a rare plea for politicians to refrain from fuelling tensions further. "I hope that doesn't happen. We're talking about adults, aren't we?" Velarde told reporters at an event Friday. (Additional Reporting By Teresa Cespedes and Ursula Scollo, Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Mary Milliken)