Peru’s President Boluarte avoids impeachment effort over Rolex watch probe

Boluarte replaced impeached President Pedro Castillo in a country where ‘moral incapacity’ ousters have become common.

Dina Boluarte
Peruvian President Dina Boluarte avoided impeachment on April 4, 2024, when Congress voted down two motions to debate her removal [File: Guadalupe Pardo/The Associated Press]

Peruvian President Dina Boluarte has avoided the latest attempt to impeach her on corruption charges related to a luxury Rolex and jewelry collection that experts estimate is valued at nearly half a million dollars.

Lawmakers on Thursday twice rejected motions to bring Boularte’s impeachment up for debate. The first was rejected in a 49-33 vote with 12 abstentions, and the second by an even wider margin of 59-32 with 11 abstentions.

Efforts to impeach leaders are increasingly common in the Latin American country, which has had six presidents since 2018. The Peruvian Constitution allows impeachment proceedings to be brought on a vague “moral incapacity” provision, which does not require proof of legal wrongdoing. Impeachment requires only 87 affirmative votes from the 130-member chamber.

Congress had already rejected two prior motions to dismiss Boluarte, who had been serving as vice president when her predecessor Pedro Castillo tried to dissolve Congress by decree in December 2022. He was subsequently arrested and impeached.

Boularte was quickly sworn in as president during the whirlwind events. She in turn faced immediate protests from Castillo’s supporters, who said the former president had been unjustly targeted by the legislature.

Castillo – a schoolteacher from Peru’s Indigenous community, which accounts for nearly a third of the country’s population of 31 million – took office in July 2021. He faced three impeachment attempts prior to his 2022 attempt to dissolve Congress.

Human rights observers have said corruption and government repression have worsened since Castillo’s arrest.

Boluarte initially said she would push Congress to fast-track a presidential election, but the legislature subsequently rejected at least five attempts to move up the vote. Boularte then reversed her stance, saying she would remain in office until the end of her five-year term.

Boluarte has also led a massive crackdown on protesters, labeling some “terrorists”.

Amnesty International said the killing of 49 civilians by government forces in the wake of Castillo’s arrest may constitute extrajudicial killings. Boluarte continues to face a constitutional complaint over the government’s response.

Ongoing investigation

Both Congress and Boluarte have public approval ratings of just 9 percent, according to an Ipsos Peru poll conducted in March.

Nevertheless, the legislature approved Boluarte’s third cabinet in 16 months on Wednesday after nearly a third of the ministers in her government resigned following a police raid at her residence at the weekend.

This week, investigators expanded their probe into alleged “illicit enrichment” focusing on Boluarte’s high-end Rolex watches to include bank deposits “of unknown origin” and other jewelry, including a valuable Cartier bracelet. Before becoming president, Boluarte was a government minister earning roughly $1,000 monthly.

The investigation began after a popular YouTube political show called La Encerrona reviewed thousands of photos of Boluarte and found in a March report that she wore a number of Rolex watches worth $14,000 to $25,000.

Prosecutors and police arrived at Boluarte’s house near midnight on Friday to carry out a search warrant.

Boularte has denied all wrongdoing. Her defence has asked that she give testimony in this case on Friday, citing the “political turbulence” it has caused.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies