Spain's PM names new interior minister

11th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's prime minister on Monday named his secretary of state for security as interior minister to replace Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, who resigned from the government to lead the Socialist Party in the next elections.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced the promotion of Antonio Camacho, who has spent seven years in his current post.

He also named Minister of Transport and Public Works Jose Blanco to the additional post of official government spokesman, a job also held by Rubalcaba.

The changes were the result of Rubalcaba's resignation from the government last week in order to concentrate on reviving the ruling Socialist Party ahead of the next general elections, which are due by March but which some political analysts suggest could be called in November.

Zapatero announced in April that he would not seek a third term as prime minister, and later backed Rubalcaba to lead the party.

The Socialists were crushed in local polls in May, when a huge swathe of the electorate, furious over Spain's economic crisis and soaring unemployment, abandoned the party for the conservative Popular Party of Mariano Rajoy, which is expected to romp into office after eight years in opposition.

Camacho, born in 1965, trained as a lawyer and had previously worked as a prosecutor before entering government.

One of his main tasks as interior minister will be combating the armed Basque separatist group ETA, of which he already has extensive knowledge in his job as secretary of state for security.

It was Zapatero's first cabinet reshuffle since October 2010.

Camacho will not additionally take Rubalcaba's post as deputy prime minister.

There will be only two deputy prime ministers instead of three in the previous cabinet: Finance Minister Elena Salgado and Minister for Regional Policy Manuel Chaves.

In a speech outlining his broadly left-of-centre policies on Saturday, Rubalcaba promised to tackle crippling unemployment and to listen to "the street".

"Spain is going through a difficult moment that requires serious commitment and that is why I'm here. I think I can be useful to my country," he said.

Polls had consistently shown Rubalcaba, 59, as the most respected member of Zapatero's cabinet.

© 2011 AFP

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