LIMA (Reuters) - How unpopular are elected officials in Peru, where a sprawling corruption scandal recently toppled a sitting president? On Wednesday, a woman on the street slapped a ruling party lawmaker in the face as he took questions from journalists.
“How much money do you have?” the woman asked ruling party Congressman Guido Lombardi, interrupting him as he spoke on live TV about a recent meeting with the new president.
“A lot!” Lombardi replied before the woman hit him in front of news cameras, wagging a finger as she walked away.
Lombardi brushed off the assault as the act of crazy woman. But it was also a stinging reminder of how angry Peruvians have grown at politicians since Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht admitted to securing lucrative contracts in Peru by bribing high-ranking officials.
In a little over a year, the scandal has made one former president a fugitive, jailed another, and last week led Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to resign less than two years into his five-year term.
It has tainted lawmakers and political leaders from major parties and provided ammunition for a power struggle between the executive and legislative branches that peaked with the release last week of a secretly recorded video showing alleged vote-buying.
All politicians in Peru deny wrongdoing in connection to Odebrecht, but most have defended themselves while casting aspersions on their rivals.
In an Ipsos poll taken early this month, approval of Congress had dropped to 14 percent from 37 percent before the Odebrecht scandal broke in December 2016. The government’s approval rating dropped to 17 percent from 49 percent.
While many Peruvians on social media condemned the woman who slapped Lombardi, others applauded her. “Lombardi..felt the rejection of a representative of the people who are fed up,” said Twitter user Alberto Zevallos.
(This refiled version of the story corrects day of week to Wednesday, not Tuesday in first paragraph.)
Reporting By Reuters TV and Mitra Taj; Editing by David Gregorio