A Bolivian mayor has received praise from the country's president for governing its largest city. But now that he's been caught on camera groping and kissing women and people are calling him some other names.
They call Percy Fernandez "a hands-on mayor" and this is why. An exchange between him and a journalist was caught on camera. His hand goes for her thigh and the journalist struggles to take it off.
Fernandez, 75, is the mayor of Santa Cruz, the largest city in Bolivia.
His advances with women are apparently not new. Two years ago, he was also caught on camera touching the bottom of his city council's president, twice.
In a 2010 at a bridge inspection, he forced a kiss upon a female engineer.
"On one hand, I think it reflects the arrogance of power; and on the other hand, a lack of control of his own actions," said Lupe Cajías, who is the president of La Paz Journalists Association. "The two things are probably related. If you think there's no boundaries, because you're above good and evil, then you can pull a journalist's leg or talk with double-meaning in front of camera without shame."
In the most recent case, Fernandez refused to apologize. But after a public outcry and complaints by the journalist's family, he released this videotaped message:
"I'm worried that I might've disrespected you while you were performing your duties," Fernandez said. "I apologize again to you and your dignified family."
The journalist's husband accepted the apology.
"We all obviously want Percy Fernandez to stop doing that because ultimately he, as mayor, is the one who loses the most," said Mario Espíndola, who is the journalist's husband.
But for many, they said the mayor has not gone far enough.
Opposition lawmaker Marcela Revollo filed a complaint accusing Fernandez of sexual harassment, sexual violence and discrimination.
"[We consider this] an expression of violence against all Bolivian women, especially because the mayor's actions have happened before," Revollo said.
Until recently, Fernandez was considered one of the most popular mayors in his country. President Evo Morales called him in February "the best mayor in Bolivia" and made a public appearance with him.
There has been no reaction from the president's office regarding the latest incident or whether the president still endorses the embattled mayor.
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