Santa Cruz Mayor Percy Fernandez is in trouble for groping journalist Mercedes Guzman at a public event.
In a video that’s gone viral, the mayor of Bolivia’s largest city is seen placing his hand on the thigh of Mercedes Guzman on April 30.
The UNO network journalist is first seen on the video greeting the mayor in the traditional Latin-American style, with a kiss on the cheek. When she sits down in her assigned seat next to him, Percy Fernandez, 75, puts his hand on her leg. For a brief moment, there’s a bit of a struggle as the journalist tries to get the mayor’s hand off her thigh. The video was aired by Gigavision, a Bolivian TV network.
It’s not the first time Percy Fernandez’s advances have been seen on video.
In 2012, Percy Fernandez was caught on camera – also at a public event – touching city council President Desireé Bravo’s bottom twice.
Lupe Cajías, president of the La Paz Association of Journalists, denounced the latest incident and strongly criticized the mayor.
“On one hand, I think it reflects the arrogance of power; and on the other hand, a lack of control of (the mayor’s) own actions. The two things are probably related. If you think there’s no boundaries because you’re above good and evil, then you can grab a journalist’s leg or talk with double-meaning in front of the camera without shame,” Lupe Cajías said.
After a public outcry and complaints by Mercedes Guzman’s family, the mayor’s office sent a video to Santa Cruz media in which Percy Fernandez apologizes for the incident.
“I’m worried that I might’ve disrespected you while you were performing your duties. I apologize again to you and your dignified family,” Percy Fernandez says on the video.
Mario Espíndola, Mercedes Guzman’s husband, accepted the apology but said Percy Fernandez’s behavior is going well beyond just unpleasant and embarrassing moments.
“We all obviously want Percy Fernandez to stop doing that because ultimately him, as mayor, is the one who loses the most,” Mario Espíndola said.
But some say the apology was not enough, that it was forced and insincere.
Opposition lawmaker Marcela Revollo filed a complaint accusing Fernandez of s**ual harassment, s**ual violence and discrimination.
“We consider this an expression of violence against all Bolivian women, considering that the mayor’s actions have happened before,” Marcela Revollo said after filing the complaint.
It’s not yet known if prosecutors will call Percy Fernandez to answer to the charges.
Percy Fernandez is one of the country’s most popular mayors. First elected in 2010 to represent the city of 1.5 million people, Percy Fernandez is expected to run for another five-year term in 2015.
Pagina Siete, a Bolivian newspaper, published a survey Monday showing that the Santa Cruz leader is at the top of a list of popular mayors in Bolivia.
In February, President Evo Morales called Percy Fernandez “the best mayor in Bolivia” and appeared with him at a public event.
There has been no reaction from the president’s office regarding the latest incident and no indication of whether President Evo Morales still endorses the embattled mayor.
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