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Peru's president replaces 6 ministers as she battles scandal over luxury watches

Lawmakers requested Parliament remove President Dina Boluarte from office amid an investigation over her alleged acquisition of a collection of undisclosed luxury watches.
Dina Boluarte gives a press conference in Lima in 2023.
President Dina Boluarte at a press conference in Lima, Peru, last year. Martin Mejia / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

LIMA, Peru — Peruvian President Dina Boluarte replaced six ministers after they resigned as her government is rocked by a?political crisis?fueled by an alleged illicit enrichment scandal involving luxury watches.

The Cabinet shakeup Monday came as lawmakers submitted to Parliament a request to remove her from office for “permanent moral incapacity” three days after?police broke down the front door?of her residence to search for the watches as part of an investigation.

The request was submitted by lawmakers from various parties including Peru Libre to which Boluarte once belonged. To remove Boluarte, the move requires 87 votes from the 130-seat unicameral Parliament, and so far, five parties that together have 54 votes expressed support for the president following the raid.

Police guard outside President Dina Boluarte's house.
Police outside President Dina Boluarte's house in Lima during a raid ordered by the attorney general's office on Saturday. Martin Mejia / AP

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.

Lawmakers in their request to remove her from office cite the investigation against Boluarte as well as countrywide problems, such as rising crime.

She has denied the illicit enrichment accusations.

Late Friday, armed police officers broke down the front door of Boluarte’s house with a battering ram in search of Rolex watches. The raid marked the first time in Peru’s history that police forcibly entered the home of a sitting president.

The probe began in mid-March after a TV show spotlighted Boluarte wearing a Rolex watch that is worth up to $14,000 in Peru. Other TV shows later mentioned 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.

She did not list the three watches in an obligatory asset declaration form.

On Monday, Boluarte initially lost three Cabinet members when the ministers of interior, education and women abruptly resigned.

Interior Minister Víctor Torres told reporters his resignation was due to a family matter while the heads of the Ministry of Women, Nancy Tolentino, and of Education, Miriam Ponce, did not offer reasons in the announcements they shared on social media.

Their resignations were followed by the ministers of agriculture, production and foreign trade stepping down.

On announcing his resignation, Torres warned that if Boluarte leaves power “the country will sink.”

Boluarte then swore in six new ministers, including Walter Ortiz, a retired police officer who had previously been director against organized crime, as interior minister. The Cabinet has 18 ministries, in addition to the position of prime minister held by Gustavo Adrianzén.

She also swore in Elizabeth Caldo, a former executive at telecommunications giant Telefónica, as her new foreign trade minister, and Morgan Quero as her education minister.

Boluarte became president in December 2022, when she replaced Castillo, who was dismissed by Parliament and is now imprisoned while being investigated for alleged corruption and rebellion.

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