Police raid the Peruvian president’s house in search of Rolex watches

Police and prosecutors in Peru carried out a surprise raid on President Dina Boluarte’s home and presidential palace Saturday morning as part of an “illegal enrichment” investigation into reports that the woman had been seen wearing Rolex watches from when she took office.

The raid, which occurred as Peruvians celebrated Holy Week, shocked many people, even in a country that has become accustomed over the past two decades to politicians being investigated for alleged corruption.

Before midnight on Good Friday, police used a battering ram to raid Ms. Boluarte’s home in Lima, according to live coverage on Latina News. Prosecutors and police then searched Ms. Boluarte’s office and residence in the presidential palace.

The president failed to show up for a scheduled meeting with prosecutors this week to show them the three Rolex watches she wore and to explain how she obtained them. She also refused to let them enter her home to execute a search warrant, according to Attorney General Juan Villena, who told lawmakers that her refusal was “a clear indicator of rebellion.”

You investigations into Ms. Boluarte have begun on March 18, after the online news The Encerrona revealed who had begun wearing increasingly expensive watches, including at least one Rolex, since taking office in December 2022. Prosecutors suspect her of violating the country’s laws against illegal enrichment and failing to declare assets. In Peru, elected officials must report to the government any assets worth more than 10,300 soles, or about $2,774, and disclose any gifts received from third parties.

Local news outlets have since reported that Ms. Boluarte has worn three other Rolex watches, as well as a $50,000 Cartier braceletand that the banking authorities have detected approximately $300,000 in deposits of unknown origin made to his personal accounts before he took office.

According to La Encerrona, the Rolex watch model he would have been wearing costs at least $14,000.

Ms. Boluarte denied any wrongdoingbut he also refused to publicly explain the origin of Rolexes, just saying that the first Rolex watch what attracted attention was an object “from a long time ago”. “Not being corrupt is in my DNA” he told reporters on March 15th. “What I have is the fruit of my efforts and work.”

In a televised address on Saturday, Ms. Boluarte, flanked by her cabinet ministers, accused the news media of creating “smoke screens” that fuel “chaos and uncertainty.” You invited Peruvians to march to defend democracy.

“I am an honest woman. I entered the presidential palace with clean hands, and this is how I will leave in 2026, ”she said.“ Let us march today for truth and idealism and embrace each other with one heart ”.

Ms. Boluarte’s surrogates have suggested other explanations. Hania Pérez de Cuéllar, her housing minister and former head of the agency that protects intellectual property, suggested that the Rolex could be fake and admitted to purchasing a counterfeit luxury watch herself on a trip to China. A lawyer for Ms. Boluarte said Saturday morning that she may have received the watches from a “fan” who wanted to remain anonymous.

Justice Minister Eduardo Arana called the raids “unconstitutional” and “disproportionate” and appealed to lawmakers for “unity” in the face of what he described as an attempt to destabilize the government.

“Justice is politicized” he said at a press conference with other ministries. “The aim is to destroy government, democracy and institutionality.” He refused to answer journalists’ questions.

It was unclear whether the Rolex controversy would cost Ms. Boluarte key support.

The Interior Ministry, which controls the national police, expressed its support, saying a post about which rejected “acts that affect the development of the country, cloaked in questionable judicial measures”.

“We reaffirm our commitment to continue working for the internal order of the country,” the ministry wrote.

Some of Ms. Boluarte’s right-wing allies have accused her of letting the situation escalate. And once-friendly media outlets have adopted a more critical stance, a sign that patience may be running out among her supporters.

The controversy over Rolex watches comes as the economy is slowing and hunger is growing in Peru, a country that has won international praise for consolidating its democracy and riding a commodities boom fueled by mining to wrest millions from its citizens out of poverty. The investigative news program This was reported by Cuarto Poder that Ms. Boluarte wore a Rolex model worth more than $18,000 to an event in February to address poverty among vulnerable populations.

Some political observers said the scandal could open the door to a new wave of political unrest in a country that has had six presidents in the past six years.

Every way out of the current crisis seems to lead to “a dead end,” Peruvian political scientist Gonzalo Banda said in an interview. If he remained in office, trust in democracy would likely decline further, with unpredictable consequences, he said.

“In Peru, you have a political class that is no longer accountable to citizens, so citizens are becoming more and more distant from politics, more disaffected with politics, more fed up with politics, which doesn’t mean they don’t pay attention,” Banda said . he said she. “All that discontent will be unleashed in new elections.”

According to a survey as of January, Ms. Boluarte is Latin America’s least popular president, with an approval rating of just 9%.

A former public official turned politician for a Marxist party, she was vice president of President Pedro Castillo. She succeeded him after he was impeached in 2022 and arrested for announcing that he would take control of Congress and the judiciary.

Ms. Boluarte’s decision to replace Castillo instead of resigning – as she once promised she would do to make way for new elections – sparked violent protests against her government in late 2022 and early 2023, with 49 civilians killed in police and military repression. . He is currently under investigation by national human rights prosecutors.

Ms. Boluarte also co-authored a book on human rights law that is under investigation for plagiarism.

Before taking the job, Ms. Boluarte earned $1,100 a month as a bureaucrat at the state agency that produces IDs. As a minister you earned around $8,000 a month, while as president you earned just over $4,000 a month.

While the authorities recovered the boxes from Ms. Boluarte’s home, a lawyer announced that her former left-wing party had secured enough support for a motion for an impeachment vote in Congress, where Ms. Boluarte has relied on a coalition of right-wing and centrist parties to survive.

While 26 votes are needed for an impeachment motion, 87 votes – or two-thirds of lawmakers – are needed for passage.

Since 2016, when consecutive corruption scandals began fueling high-stakes political battles in Peru, two presidents, Castillo and Martín Vizcarra, have been impeached. One, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, to avoid resigning an impeachment vote. All living former Peruvian presidents except one, Francisco Sagasti, who governed from late 2020 to mid-2021, have come under investigation for corruption or human rights abuses. In 2019, former president Alan García committed suicide to avoid arrest.

MP Alejandro Muñante, of the far-right Renovación Popular party, said on X that Ms. Boluarte had not done herself any favors with her silence in recent weeks.

“Staying silent has cost the president a lot and will continue to do so if he continues to opt for this terrible defense strategy,” Muñante said. “Boluarte still has time to clarify the issue. If this were not the case, a new succession would not be crazy at all.”