By ROBERT KOZAK
LIMA -- Peruvian Prime Minister Yehude Simon said Tuesday that he will resign in the near future, amid criticism of his handling of bloody indigenous protests in the Amazon earlier this month in which at least 32 police and Indians were killed.
Mr. Simon, chief of President Alan García's cabinet, said he wants to stay on until the political firestorm from the protests has been resolved. Congress is expected to repeal two decrees, aimed at promoting investment in the Amazon, that sparked the protests. Those decrees, providing for the development of oil, natural gas, forestry, and agricultural resources in the Amazon, drew opposition from native groups who said such moves would ruin the environment and rob them of traditional lands.
Under Peru's constitution, Mr. Simon's resignation will lead to the resignation of the entire cabinet, opening the door for Mr. García to push out other ministers tarnished by the conflict, such as Interior Minister Mercedes Cabanillas. Even before the Amazon eruption, Mr. García had been limping along with a 30% approval rating.
Mr. García may also now pull back from his unofficial policy of favoring investments with or without the consent of local populations, said political analyst Santiago Pedraglio. The government had approved the decrees in part to bring Peru's laws in line with requirements outlined in its free-trade deal with the U.S.
"García made a bet that there could be these large-scale investments without taking into account the people in those regions," says Mr. Pedraglio. "But he will have to now, and I imagine investors will also want to take those concerns into account now."
Many politicians had called for Mr. Simon's removal since violence broke out in the Amazon following a June 5 police operation to remove thousands of indigenous protesters from a highway. According to the government, the operation resulted in the deaths of 23 policemen and nine Indians. Native groups say the death toll was higher.—Matt Moffett contributed to this article.
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