Peru's Congress rejects attempt to impeach president amid Rolex scandal

By Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) -Peru's Congress on Thursday voted twice against formally debating the launch of a process to impeach under-fire President Dina Boluarte, who is facing a probe into her possession of expensive jewelry, including luxury Rolex watches.

Boluarte - a former vice president who was rapidly sworn in as head of state by Congress in 2022 after her predecessor was impeached - is facing a probe for alleged illicit enrichment by improperly acquiring the high-end Rolex watches.

She has denied all wrongdoing, but the case was further complicated this week when the probe expanded into bank deposits "of unknown origin" and other jewelry, including a valuable Cartier bracelet.

Congress on Wednesday backed the government's new slate of ministers in a vote of confidence in the latest cabinet. Nearly a third of ministers resigned earlier this week, following a weekend raid at Boluarte's residence.

On Thursday, lawmakers rejected two separate motions to bring the topic of impeachment to debate.

The first motion was rejected with 49 votes against to 33 in favor while 12 abstained, and the second met a similar fate with 59 against, 32 in favor and 11 abstentions.

Approval had been an unlikely scenario as conservative and right-wing lawmakers had signaled support for the president, claiming they sought to avoid a major crisis.

Both Congress and Boluarte hold approval ratings of just 9%, according to an Ipsos Peru poll in March. The chamber has already rejected two prior motions to dismiss the president, both earlier this year and in 2023.

Boluarte has faced fierce protests over the years from supporters of her democratically elected predecessor, Pedro Castillo, who was impeached in December 2022 for trying to shutter Congress and later jailed.

Peru's politics are highly polarized and the constitution allows presidents to be impeached for "moral incapacity," a subjective measure that's been used to impeach several former leaders.

Almost all high-ranking officials or former Peruvian presidents have been investigated by prosecutors or have been involved in corruption cases in the last three decades.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by Costas Pitas and Aurora Ellis)