Currently in Peruvian politics it seems that there is a classic old case of “who is wearing the pants?’ According to the columnist Federico Salazar, as well as many Peruvians, the answer is first lady Nadine Heredia and not the Peruvian President Ollanta Humala. Salazar writes that this conception, whether it is true or not, is damaging both to the president and the nation and it is high time for the first lady to clarify that it is her husband and not she who is in charge. The piece comes from Peruvian newspaper El Comercio. The original in Spanish is here.
Humala has a constitutional mandate not as his wife’s “first companion” but to exercise power.
The president’s wife has got things wrong about herself. Or maybe she wants to be wrong. None of this would be bad, if it wasn’t affecting the exercising of power in Peru.
According to the latest poll by Datum, the first lady is perceived as the country’s most powerful person. In second place is her husband, the president of the republic.
Of those polled, a greater number believes that the president of the party that is in government wields more power than the Peruvian head of state. The numbers are not convincing but they are revealing.
Nadine Heredia is considered the country’s most powerful person by 26% of those polled. Below her with just 25%, is her husband, the president Ollanta Humala.
Power, of course, is not what people think. What people think, however, has a lot to do with how authority is exercised. Authority is held in the respect that it inspires and generates.
A year ago, 28% placed Humala in first place compared to only 22% for Heredia. The year produced the cabinet crises involving Villanueva and Cornejo, both of which were associated with the supposed maneuvering of Nadine Heredia.
The presidential couple, far from trying to clarify and dispel these assumptions, do all they can to emphasize them.
The leader has said that the poll result is recognition for his wife’s work. And his wife, far from from saying that it is a generous error of those polled, agrees with fervent modesty.
According to Heredia ” since the beginning we have been working as a couple and as a family”. Her husband works in his role as president and she “helps him in all that she can”.
That’s not what the poll says. The person who “helps” is not the person who is above the other. Rather, the person who helps, is subordinate. If that’s the way it is, then it is Ms Heredia who is in charge and the “helper” is the president.
The president of the republic shouldn’t appear, whether by mistake or not, as a sidekick. The reason is simple: Power must be exercised with responsibility and because of this our constitution indicates that there is one president and one president only.
The first lady should not agree with those who believe she is the most powerful person. She should say that they are mistaken. She could say that she is flattered by the mistake but she shouldn’t indicate approval of it either tacitly or expressly.
It doesn’t do any good for the president of the republic to look like his wife’s handbag. He has a constitutional mandate from voters not to be his wife’s “first companion” but to exercise power.
Hopefully the first lady can help to avoid this confusion. This would help her husband, herself and her family.
The Peruvian state is not the Peruvian Nationalist Party. It is not the Humala-Heredia family. It is not the presidential couple and it is not subjugated to the singular style of any marital arrangement.
In Peru the principal of authority must be reestablished. And authority is born of the people’s belief about who is exercising it.