Peruvians vent anger on presidential dolls

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The Independent US

Dolls dressed to look like Peru's President Alejandro Toledo - Toledo piñatas - are proving a popular outlet for Peruvians to vent their anger on their increasingly unpopular leader.

President Toledo reached the halfway mark of his five-year term this week. Opinion polls show his popularity rating is as low as 10 per cent.

Hiro Watanabe, a Lima shopkeeper, said his effigies were selling like hot cakes for New Year's Eve - when Peruvians traditionally burn effigies to ward off bad luck. Mr Watanabe suggested stuffing the Toledo doll with candy and beating it, but did not rule out that many might be torched.

After taking office in July 2001 with an approval rating of about 60 per cent, Mr Toledo's popularity fell quickly amid criticism that he was indecisive and unable to deliver on promised jobs. Recent rumours, allegedly fuelled by a prominent member of Mr Toledo's political party led the President to fire Peru's first female cabinet chief on 12 December, swearing in her replacement and four new ministers three days later. But the new women's minister stepped down amid allegations of past corruption less than a week into the job. The labour minister, who held the job prior to the cabinet shuffle, has since struggled to quell charges of nepotism.

On Monday, the papal nuncio to Peru, Archbishop Rino Passigato, warned that Peruvian politics had become a cockfight. Former president Alan Garcia - a front-runner for the presidency in 2006 - said an early poll might be necessary if the government could not end the crisis.