The entire cabinet of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos unexpectedly resigned Wednesday at the request of the head of state.
According to the presidential website, all 16 ministers signed a letter of resignation in which they “allow you to consider our posts so that you, in full liberty, can take the best determinations for yourself, the government and the country.”
The mass resignation followed only weeks after the completion of Santos’ first two years as president in which the president’s approval ratings dropped to a low not seen since the administration of Andres Pastrana (1998 – 2002).
“What begins is the second half of your mandate, without a doubt the most important period of your administration because it will be the time of consolidation of great works and projects that we have begun for our compatriots under your leadership. IT is the appropriate moment for you to make changes within the team necessary to achieve the goals we have set,” the card said.
A source within the Presidential Palace told newspaper El Tiempo that Santos planned “to take his time” in deciding which ministers to replace and which ministers to keep.
Political analysis website La Silla Vacia said Santos could use the self-inflicted “crisis” to appoint ministers from coalition parties that have grown increasingly dissident to the government’s policies under pressure of former President Alvaro Uribe.
According to the website, the mass resignation could also be designed to get rid of ministers who have come under pressure and consolidate a cabinet that is able to face an expected increase in opposition in the two years left before the next elections in which Santos’ centrist government can expect criticism from both the left and the right.
Newspaper El Espectador reported that Santos’ move may serve to prepare the government for peace talks with rebel group FARC while strengthening the president’s position in the face of a re-election campaign in 2014.
Ministers who are expected to stay
- German Vargas Lleras – Housing
Santos’ most important ally and leader of the Cambio Radical party
- Rafael Pardo – Labor
Key political ally as former Liberal Party leader
- Diego Molano – ICT
One of Santos’ lesser known, but most praised ministers
- Juan Carlos Echeverry – Finance
Heavyweight who so far has prevented the euro crisis to cause great impact on Colombia’s economy
- Sergio Diaz-Granados – Trade
Man of confidence of Santos and partly responsible for the U.S. ratification of a free trade agreement
- Ruth Stella Correa – Justice
Recently appointed after a failed justice reform foced her predecessor to resign
- Maria Angela Holguin – Foreign Relations
Highly valued for improving Colombia’s image abroad, particularly in the region
- Mauricio Cardenas – Mining and Energy
In charge of Colombia’s mining policies, considered the engine of the national economy
Ministers who are expected to leave
- Miguel Peñaloza – Transport
Criticized for allegedly favoring a family business in the granting of government contracts
- Beatriz Londoño – Health
Criticized for failing to show progress in solving a crisis in Colombia’s health care system
- Maria Fernanda Campo – Education
Weakened after a education reform was withdrawn under pressure of massive student protests
- Frank Pearl – Environment
Criticized for failing to defend environmental issues against economic interests of the mining industry
Ministers whose future is unclear
- Federico Renfijo – Interior
Only in office for three months, but criticized for his dealing with indigenous uprisings in southwestern Colombia
- Juan Carlos Pinzon – Defense
Santos’ second defense minister and strong ally, but criticized over an increase in rebel attacks
- Juan Camilo Restrepo – Agriculture
Heavyweight who has so far failed to successfully implement one of Santos’ key policies — the returning of stolen land to displaced farmers.
- Mariana Garces – Culture
One of Colombia’s most invisible and least controversial ministers