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Peru's congress votes to drop education minister

Reporter: Dan Collyns 丨 CCTV.com

12-16-2016 12:51 BJT

Peru’s opposition-led Congress has voted to impeach education minister Jaime Saavedra, forcing him from office just five months into the government of president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. 

By 78 votes out of 130, Peru’s Congress has ousted education minister Jaime Saavedra over allegations of corruption on his watch. Other members of Congress left the chamber during the vote as a sign of protest. It is a sign of widening tension between the executive and the right-wing opposition dominated by the supporters of the losing presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori.

Students marched in support of the minister earlier this week and last week. Saavedra is widely regarded as an outstanding education minister who was carried over from the last administration. He has pushed through tough reforms; Peru was the most improved performer in South America in an international student proficiency test PISA having come in last place last year.

Saavedra also boosted pay for teachers and made it performance based. He has rebuilt dilapidated schools and championed the university law, which established minimum probity and educational standards at private universities.

Instead of congratulating Saavedra, an opposition-led Congress subjected him to a 11-hour interrogation last week and today voted to sack him.

Most commentators say the hostility toward Saaverda is because several opposition legislators have links to lucrative private universities that offer poor value education to their students and have been forced to fall into line by his reforms.

In political terms, it is a blow to President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who narrowly beat rival Keiko Fujimori, by fewer than 50,000 votes, earlier this year. But his party is outnumbered in Congress; the Fujimori-supporting opposition have 72 seats out of 130.

Kuczynski’s attempts to appease the opposition failed and the fear is the political opposition may try to impeach more ministers.