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Business News/ News / A $15,000 Rolex Threatens to Worsen Peru Leader’s 9% Approval Rating

A $15,000 Rolex Threatens to Worsen Peru Leader’s 9% Approval Rating

Dina Boluarte is discovering the risks of leading a country that jails ex-presidents so often that it built a special prison to hold them.

A $15,000 Rolex Threatens to Worsen Peru Leader’s 9% Approval RatingPremium
A $15,000 Rolex Threatens to Worsen Peru Leader’s 9% Approval Rating

(Bloomberg) -- Dina Boluarte is discovering the risks of leading a country that jails ex-presidents so often that it built a special prison to hold them.

Just a year into Boluarte’s term as Peru’s president, about 80% of voters wanted her gone. That was before a scandal erupted over how exactly she came to own a collection of luxury goods, including a Rolex wristwatch she has sported at public events.

Now, as Boluarte battles allegations of corruption, her approval rating stands at 9%. But she has found a crucial pillar of support in an equally reviled institution: Congress.

An Ipsos poll last month showed the splintered parliament faces almost identical ratings — 9% approval and 85% rejection by the public.    

Congress now seems likely to back Boluarte as she faces a criminal investigation over illegal enrichment. Last week on Holy Friday — a public holiday in Catholic Peru — police raided her private residence, forcing their way through the door. They then searched the presidential palace for luxury items and evidence about how she came to acquire them.

Boluarte has denied any wrongdoing, but also hasn’t publicly explained how she obtained her seemingly expensive possessions. She has acknowledged owning at least one Rolex watch and prosecutors found documentation tying Boluarte to a Datejust 36 — prices of which start at $15,000 in Peru — during the raid.

Her jewelry collection even includes a Cartier bracelet worth $50,000, according to the newspaper La Republica. Boluarte hasn’t denied that claim.

Before Boluarte gained the vice presidency in 2021 as part of the ticket in a Marxist-Leninist party, she was a public servant working for Peru’s agency in charge of identity records. She declared an annual income of about $18,000 in that role.

As vice president and minister, she declared a monthly income of about $8,000, according to her official sworn statements. Her monthly income as president is $4,300.

In a nationwide address on Saturday, Boluarte called the police raid “arbitrary, disproportional and abusive," suggesting that criticism of her administration threatens the country’s democracy. 

“This situation is extremely serious and impacts the rights of my family, but mostly it affects the country’s governability," she said in the address, flanked by her cabinet.

Two cabinet members — interior minister Victor Torres and women’s minister Nancy Tolentino — announced their resignations on Monday, although neither cited the Rolex scandal. In his role as interior minister, Torres oversaw the national police, a unit of which was responsible for raiding Boluarte’s residences on Friday.

The largest congressional bloc — Popular Force — has backed multiple impeachment motions since 2017 that have forced out three presidents. But over the weekend, it said impeaching Boluarte would create “instability" in the country.

Last year, Boluarte freed jailed former president Alberto Fujimori, the father of Keiko Fujimori, the head of Popular Force.

Boluarte’s top aide, Prime Minister Gustavo Adrianzen, faces a confirmation vote in Congress later this week. And while a left-wing lawmaker has filed an impeachment motion against the president over the luxury items, she has already comfortably survived two ouster attempts since taking over. 

In addition to the illegal-enrichment investigation, Boluarte faces a homicide probe over her role in the deaths of almost 50 protesters who were killed in anti-government demonstrations during the first few months of her presidency.

Boluarte, whose term is set to end in July 2026, cannot be arrested while in office. She cannot run for reelection.  

The Rolex and other luxury items clash with the image Boluarte has sought to project as a politician. She was elected as vice president in 2021 as part of a party that went on to win overwhelming support among Peru’s poorest citizens while being rejected by its wealthiest citizens.

After her predecessor was impeached and arrested, Boluarte has insisted that she is a woman of humble origins, often speaking in the indigenous language Quechua in national addresses to differentiate herself from whiter elites in Lima.

“The first female president in the 200 years of our country’s history does not give up," Boluarte said in her Saturday address. “I came in with clean hands to the presidency and I will go out in the same way in 2026." 

(Updates in 12th paragraph with news of two cabinet members’ resignations.)

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Published: 02 Apr 2024, 05:02 AM IST
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