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Peru’s president will answer questions over ownership of luxury watches, her lawyers say


LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s President Dina Boluarte will answer questions Friday over her ownership of a trio of luxury watches, her attorneys said Tuesday, a day after she reshuffled her cabinet as an alleged illicit enrichment scandal further threatens her presidency.

The Cabinet shakeup Monday came as lawmakers submitted to Parliament a request to remove Boluarte from office for “permanent moral incapacity.” The request came three days after police broke down the front door of her residence to search for the watches as part of an investigation.

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The law firm of attorney Mateo Castañeda, Boluarte’s lawyer, said on X, formerly Twitter, that the Attorney General’s Office denied her client’s request to move up the interview’s date and that prosecutors said “they are not responsible for the political whirlwind” in Peru.

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Peru’s President Dina Boluarte talks to the press at the end of the Amazon Summit in Belem, Brazil, Aug. 8, 2023.  (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Prosecutors have also instructed Boluarte to show them the watches Friday.

The shake-up comes as Boluarte struggles to govern amid sinking popularity, investigations against her and frequent scandals involving senior officials. The latest appointments were for ministers of interior, education, women, agriculture, production and foreign trade.

All outgoing ministers submitted their resignation Monday. Interior Minister Víctor Torres told reporters his was due to a family matter while the heads of the Ministry of Women, Nancy Tolentino, and of Education, Miriam Ponce, did not offer reasons in the announcements they shared on social media.

Benjamin Gedan, director of the Latin America program at the Washington-based Wilson Center think tank, said the changes “will not move the needle on public opinion or reduce the chances of impeachment or protests.”

“It is hard to imagine anything short of new elections could prevent yet another political crisis, though the president and her similarly unpopular allies in Congress will try to ride this out,” he said Tuesday.

Market research firm Ipsos measured Boluarte’s unpopularity rate at 88% in March.

Boluarte is being preliminarily investigated for allegedly acquiring an undisclosed collection of luxury watches since becoming vice president and social inclusion minister in July 2021 and then president in December 2022. She did not list the three watches in an obligatory asset declaration form.

Boluarte has denied the illicit enrichment accusations.

Lawmakers’ request to remove her from office cites the investigation as well as countrywide problems, such as rising crime. The request was submitted by lawmakers from various parties including Peru Libre to which Boluarte once belonged.

Lawmakers are expected to consider the request Thursday. The move must earn 52 votes in order for Parliament to accept it and open a debate. To remove Boluarte, the move requires 87 votes from the 130-seat unicameral Parliament, and so far, five parties that together have 54 votes expressed support for the president following the raid.

Late Friday, armed police officers broke down the front door of Boluarte’s house with a battering ram and entered the property to search for the watches. They did not find them.

The raid marked the first time in Peru’s history that police forcibly entered the home of a sitting president.

The probe began in mid-March after a TV show spotlighted Boluarte wearing a Rolex watch that is worth up to $14,000 in Peru. Other TV shows later mentioned at least two more Rolexes. Neither Boluarte nor her attorney have answered questions from reporters about the watches, including whether they are authentic.

Boluarte, a 61-year-old lawyer, was a modest district official before entering then-President Pedro Castillo’s government on a monthly salary of $8,136 in July 2021. She became president in December 2022 — when Parliament dismissed Castillo — with a lower salary of $4,200 per month and began wearing the watches shortly after.

If prosecutors eventually charge Boluarte with illicit enrichment, they will have to defer prosecution until after her term ends in 2026.

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Boluarte is also being preliminarily investigated for her alleged role in deadly protests that followed Castillo’s dismissal. Castillo is now imprisoned while being investigated for alleged corruption and rebellion.

Peru is no stranger to presidential crises. No president has finished a full term since 2016, and the South American country cycled through three of them in a week in 2020, when lawmakers flexed their impeachment powers.



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