Government agents conduct investigation at Peruvian President Boluarte’s residence regarding luxury watches

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Government agents conduct investigation at Peruvian President Boluarte’s residence regarding luxury watches

LIMA (AP) — Peruvian police busted through the front door of President Dina Boluarte ’s house with a battering ram overnight in search of luxury watches as part of an investigation into possible illicit enrichment.

Police had waited in vain for several minutes for someone to open the door late Friday, as dozens of armed officers carrying ballistic shields and batons looked on. After their raid around midnight, officers went to the presidential palace where, this time, they were admitted without resorting to force.

The country is accustomed to seeing searches in the homes of former presidents, but this marked the first time in Peru’s history that police forcibly entered the home of a sitting president. Raids on the presidential palace had happened before.

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.

The investigation began in mid-March after a TV program spotlighted Boluarte wearing a Rolex watch that in Peru is worth up to $14,000. Later, other programs detected at least two more Rolexes.

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. Boluarte later assumed the presidency with a lower salary of $4,200 per month. Shortly thereafter, she began to display the luxury watches.

Boluarte did not list any Rolexes in an obligatory asset declaration document.

Boluarte’s lawyer, Mateo Castañeda, told radio station RPP on Saturday morning that police even searched under the carpets at the presidential palace, and found approximately 10 “nice” watches. Castañeda did not say how many of the watches found in the palace were Rolexes.

“Staff from the Government Palace completely facilitated the diligence requested by the Attorney General’s Office, which was carried out normally and without incident,” Peru’s presidency said in a message Saturday morning on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

In an unusual interview during the early hours, Prime Minister Gustavo Adrianzén told RPP radio that he considered the raid “illegal and unconstitutional.”

Adrianzén added that “a storm was being generated where there is none” and the work of the prosecution is causing “political noise that affects investments.”

Boluarte has not commented on the searches.

Boluarte initially claimed ownership of at least one Rolex as a long-held possession and urged the media not to delve into personal matters during a press conference in March.

Earlier in the week, Attorney General Juan Villena criticized Boluarte’s request to delay her appearance in court for two weeks, emphasizing her obligation to cooperate with the investigation.

Political turmoil is nothing new in Peru, which has seen six presidents in the last six years. But this “latest crisis will further tarnish the image of the Peruvian presidency, with potentially significant political and economic implications,” said Benjamin Gedan, the director of the Wilson Center’s Latin America Program.

Many see Boluarte’s recent statements as contradicting her earlier pledge to speak truthfully to prosecutors, exacerbating a political crisis stemming from her unexplained ownership of Rolex watches.

The attorney general emphasized Boluarte’s obligation to promptly produce the three Rolex watches for investigation, cautioning against their disposal or destruction.

Boluarte assumed the presidency in December 2022 following Castillo’s impeachment after he attempted to dissolve congress and rule by decree. At least 49 people were killed in the protests that followed.

Critics accuse Boluarte’s government of taking an increasingly authoritarian bent as it staves off demands for early elections and works with members of congress on laws that threaten to undermine the independence of Peru’s judicial system.

Boluarte will testify to the prosecutor’s office on April 5, Castañeda told RPP.

Since last year’s mobilizations and their deadly consequences, there has not been a strong social movement capable of removing Boluarte, according to political analyst and lawyer Juan de la Puente.

“There is an enormous distrust that their presence on the streets can lead to anything positive,” de la Puente said in a telephone interview, referring to potential protesters.

Still, the weekend raids highlight that Boluarte’s government has run its course, de la Puente said, adding that defining exactly when she might step down is not yet possible.

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Hughes reported from Rio de Janeiro.

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