When did Peru screw up?



Since the 1990s, every president in Peru has entered office with clean hands. 

Then they get dirty for some reason, and the country has a special presidential prison for national leaders. But there are no vacancies.

If one word were to answer the question, «What is happening in Peru?», one would have to remember the Russian one: «Stealing».

In an analysis by Simeon Tegel, a British journalist for Foreign Policy in Lima, it is said that «in Peru it is impossible not to notice the rampant bribery that, with a few exceptions, has metastasized into almost every public institution».

According to Fernán Altuve, a Peruvian history professor and former congressman, these metastases of corruption in all Peruvian institutions since the beginning of the millennium have resulted in «almost all Peruvians who have worn the presidential sash have ended up in prison, on the run, committed suicide, or tainted by corruption charges». A 2019 report from the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (Ministerio de Justicia y Derechos Humanos, Minjus) shows that in Peru that year alone, 1,431 public officials and businessmen were under investigation for corruption offenses.

Peru is a champion in the number of presidents who have broken the law and ended up in prison. A special prison has been created for them. It is located on the territory of the police academy in a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Lima. And, of course, it was not designed for such a large number of VIPs, especially former heads of state. They had to rebuild first one and then two more cells into small comfortable living rooms. But even this was not enough. Since 2016, not a single head of state has served a full term in the Government Palace.

The last elected president, Pedro Castillo, a left-wing rural teacher and zero politician, stayed in the Government Palace for less than a year and a half, was arrested, suspended by Congress for «permanent moral incapacity». The first high-profile prisoner, three times in power, 85-year-old Alberto Fujimori, who was pardoned last year «on humanitarian grounds», ceded his «bunk» to him. He was serving a 25-year sentence for leading death squads and for bribery.

Alejandro Toledo, Ollanta Humala, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Martin Vizcarra are in pre-trial detention on charges of taking large-scale bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. They face sentences of 15 years or more. Manuel Merino, who succeeded Vizcarra but managed to take a large kickback during his five days in office and was impeached. Another president, Alan Garcia, committed suicide in 2019 when police officers came to arrest him for allegedly taking a bribe.

Repeating their «feat» is now a chance for Peru’s first female president, Dina Boluarte. She took over as head of state in December 2022 after parliament sent Castillo into retirement. She went from being a far-left vice president to president, rebranding herself as an ally of the center-right majority of Congress. For this, former associates called her a «shameless opportunist with her hands in blood».

With a seven percent popularity among Peruvians, she has, on top of everything else, been accused of massacring peasants, leading to the deaths of more than 50 people during a protest against Castillo’s overthrow.

«The vile obstructionism of the majority of congressmen, who identify with racist and social interests in general, has led to the creation of chaos for the sake of governing the country against the will of the people and the constitutional order», these words were the beginning of Pedro Castillo’s message to the nation on December 7, 2022. In 10 minutes, the president announced the dissolution of Congress and promised to call new legislative elections in less than nine months. He did not reach home; he was arrested, impeached and jailed in Barbadillo.

In this, according to Peruvian politicians and experts, the right-wing congressmen were helped by Dina Boluarte, who went from cinderella to president in the blink of an eye. Will Freeman, adviser on Latin American studies at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, called Boluarte a «puppet» who allowed lawmakers to pass reforms favorable to them so that both she and the congressmen could remain in power until 2026.

Nevertheless, the 61-year-old Boluarte, a mid-level civil servant, has managed to avoid allegations of personal corruption for the past year and a half. But you can’t be safe from jail or prison.

The scandal, dubbed Rolexgate, erupted after the popular Peruvian news podcast La Encerrona analyzed 10,000 images from the president’s Flickr account that revealed Boluarte’s collection of luxury watches and jewelry. La Encerrona journalists reported that the president wore different Rolex models to various official events.

It was revealed that over the past year, she amassed a personal jewelry collection worth $500,000 with a monthly presidential salary of about $4,200. Major items allegedly include a $50,000 Cartier bracelet and a $19,000 Rolex watch.

«This represents my life’s work since I was 18 years old», Boluarte said, claiming she bought the Rolex and jewelry before she was elected to public office. In a televised address to the nation, she promised to explain herself to investigators, but did not attend the scheduled meeting because she was «too busy».

Angry prosecutors and police broke into her private home in Lima. This is the first such case in Peru’s history. According to them, the seized items include documentation indicating that the Rolex was bought in July 2023, i.e. during her presidency. And investigators estimated that the jewelry, including the bracelet and watch, could be worth up to $500,000, and also found that Boluarte received more than $400,000 in «deposits of unknown origin» into her bank account.

The president then delivered an address to the nation in which she accused prosecutors of «unconstitutional, arbitrary, disproportionate and abusive» actions.

«I entered office with clean hands and will thus leave the presidency in 2026», Boluarte said.

The prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation against the president for «illicit enrichment». Investigators will have to determine whether Boluarte bought the jewelry herself or received it as a gift, and where the watch and hundreds of thousands of dollars in bank transfers came from.

According to experts, this head of state also appears to have violated anti-corruption rules. Peru’s laws require officials to declare jewelry worth more than 10,300 soles ($2,774).

Peruvian Attorney General Juan Villena said his office is expanding the scope of the investigation, given that investigators suspect Boluarte has even more undeclared assets.

Leftist lawmakers from Boluarte’s former Perú Libre party signed a petition to remove her from office on grounds of «permanent moral incapacity», a constitutional technicality that has led to the forced resignation of one and the ouster of two other presidents in the past six years.

The scandal erupted when her popularity in polls stuck in the single digit, making her one of the most unpopular leaders in Latin America. The latest poll conducted by Proética, the Peruvian arm of Transparency International, showed: 81% of Peruvians surveyed believe corruption has increased, and more than half (53%) are sure — corruption under the current president will continue to increase in the future. Only 14% responded that their country is on the right track.

In the first three months after Boluarte took office, Peru’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights registered 1,327 nationwide protests, 882 police and military mobilizations, the installation of 240 roadblocks, 195 anti-government rallies and 60 peace marches.

In its report, Amnesty International called the Boluarte government’s repression «crimes against international law» and condemned «racist bias». 80% of the total number of deaths recorded since the protests began were among the Amerindian and peasant population.

A Datum International poll conducted in April showed that only 7% of citizens approve of the president’s performance. This is the lowest approval rate for a Peruvian head of state in two decades.

However, Boluarte has ruled out the possibility of resigning or calling early elections, as she promised at the beginning of her rule. Peru’s next general election is scheduled for 2026, so this lady who clings to power still has enough time and constitutional powers to rule the country with the help of the army and conservative congressmen.

«When did Peru screw up?» asks the hero of Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel «A Conversation in the Cathedral», which was published in 1969. And the same question resounds today, half a century later, when not only Peru but the entire Western world is mired in inequality, corruption, fornication, perversion, and Catholicism has fallen into heresy, justifying the sins of those in power.