How Rolexes put Peru's presidency at risk

Dozens of police and prosecutors raided President Dina Boluarte's home and office over Easter weekend

Reuters
Published : 3 April 2024, 04:19 AM
Updated : 3 April 2024, 04:19 AM

Peru has had six presidents since 2018, and current head of state, Dina Boluarte is in political hot water and facing calls to step down amid questions about the provenance of her collection of Rolex watches.

Boluarte is under investigation for illicit enrichment for possessing luxury timepiece watches without proving how she got them. Dozens of police and prosecutors raided her home and office over Easter weekend looking for evidence in the case.

Boluarte, who took power in 2022 after her predecessor was impeached for illegally trying to shutter congress, saw the beginning of her term marked by protests and the ensuing crackdown that left dozens dead.

Despite widespread calls for her resignation or to bring forward elections, Boluarte survived but is now facing renewed calls to step down over the scandal.

In a televised address to the nation, Boluarte called the raid "abusive" and said she would serve her term until 2026. Congress has already taken initial steps to impeach Boluarte.

WHAT'S THE ROLEX SCANDAL

In March, a popular political Youtube show called "La Encerrona" reviewed thousands of photos of Boluarte and found she wore a number of Rolex watches worth between $14,000 and $25,000.

On Mar 18, Peru's prosecutor's office announced "preliminary proceedings" against Boluarte for alleged "illicit enrichment" and failure to declare ownership of the expensive Rolex watches in documents.

WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE RAID?

Dozens of prosecutors and police arrived at Boluarte's house near midnight on Good Friday to carry out a search warrant.

Prosecutors said they had requested the watches from Boluarte but they had not been handed in and the raid produced "elements of interest" for the investigation.

Local media outlets published documents from the raid showing at least one Rolex watch, a Datejust 36 model with a purchase date of July 8, 2023. A similar model on Rolex's website costs at least $14,800.

Eight lower-priced watches from other brands were found in the Government Palace, according to local media reports. Boluarte's salary as president is about $4,200 with expenses and housing paid for by the state.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Boluarte's defense had asked the prosecutor to postpone the president's testimony, but is now requesting she give a statement on Friday, Apr 5, due to the "political turbulence" the case is causing.

Mostly left-wing opposition legislators presented a motion in Congress on Monday to begin Boluarte's impeachment for "permanent moral incapacity". Only 26 of 130 legislators are needed to start the process, 52 votes are needed to debate the impeachment in Congress, and 87 are needed to impeach.

Boluarte has already survived two attempts to start impeachment proceedings, but both failed to receive 52 votes before proceeding.

Impeachment is unlikely since right-wing legislators have a majority in congress and support Boluarte.

Six of Boluarte's ministers, including the interior minister, have resigned on Monday over the scandal.

Gustavo Adrianzen, who took over as prime minister in March, must be confirmed by Congress on Wednesday and if he fails the vote of confidence, Boluarte's entire cabinet must resign.

WHAT HAPPENED TO PERU'S OTHER PRESIDENTS?

Peru's politics are highly polarized, and the constitution allows presidents to be impeached for "moral incapacity," a subjective measure that's been used to impeach several former leaders.

Almost all high-ranking officials or former Peruvian presidents have been investigated by the prosecution or have been involved in corruption cases in the last three decades.

After being elected in 2016, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned prior to a likely conviction after being successfully impeached in 2018 following a corruption scandal. His vice president, Martin Vizcarra, then took over but was also impeached for "permanent moral incapacity" due to corruption charges in 2020.

After that, Manuel Merino was president for just five days, resigning after two protest deaths in Lima. Francisco Sagasti then took power for a year until leftists outsider Pedro Castillo was elected in 2021.

Castillo was impeached in December for trying to shutter congress. Castillo is now jailed in the same prison as another former president Alejandro Toledo. They shared the prison with former President Alberto Fujimori who was released last December after a pardon.