BOGOTA, Colombia — President Ernesto Samper on Monday accepted the resignation of Finance Minister Guillermo Perry, who cited the political crisis that threatens to bring down the government as his reason for stepping down.
Moving to fill the gap left by Perry, a key supporter and the architect of government economic policy, the embattled Samper announced that he had asked Jose Antonio Ocampo, a former agriculture minister and director of the National Planning Department, to assume the finance post.
Perry's departure follows a public dispute he had last week with Foreign Trade Minister Morris Harf, who said the government should exercise more control over monetary policy and strip away some of the power wielded by the country's conservative central bank directors.
The proposal, which Perry dismissed out of hand, was made by Harf amid a sharp decline in industrial production and retail sales, blamed by many business leaders on sky-high domestic interest rates averaging about 45% for loans.
Samper expressed no regret over Perry's decision to leave. He said Colombia's economic slowdown so far this year has been due to a variety of factors, including high interest rates and a reduced flow of drug dollars because of Colombia's crackdown on Cali cartel kingpins--not just "the uncertainty created by the so-called political crisis."
Perry, who submitted his resignation over the weekend in a letter published in Monday's editions of Bogota's El Tiempo newspaper, vowed to continue defending Samper and his policies as a private citizen.
But his departure, coming at a time when three other ministers and the country's attorney general face possible arrest on drug corruption charges, added to the growing sense of chaos in Colombia.