Peru’s president says local people do not get his ‘English humor’

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski poses for a photo after exercising at the Government Palace in Lima

LIMA (Reuters) – After upsetting lawmakers and a senior church leader with comments that have triggered chuckles and raised eyebrows, Peru’s new president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has observed that Peruvians do not get his “English humor”.

Kuczynski, a 77-year-old former investment banker who studied in Britain in the 1950s, took office in Peru in July.

The most recent example of his unusual style occurred last week when a judge issued an order that said public health centers could distribute the emergency contraceptive pill, a matter of contention in the Catholic country.

When his minister for health, Patricia Garcia, said the decision would be challenged by the government, he said straight-faced, “First you better ask the Cardinal”.

And in Puno near the Bolivian border, a place known for large markets selling black market goods, he said he “wasn’t worried about a bit of smuggling”.

While the comments may seem fairly innocuous, they have generated controversy in the conservative Andean country.

“I was educated in England and it’s English humor,” he said when asked about it during an interview on Sunday that was broadcast by America Television. “It’s a bit ironic, and I’m going to have to quickly adapt.”

Kuczynski, whose parents were of Swiss and Polish descent, has also caused amusement with his idiosyncratic style, ordering his ministers to do a weekly workout before their cabinet meeting.

The president, who has pledged to cut taxes and invest in infrastructure, has begun with approval ratings around 70 percent, according to a poll earlier this month.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino, Writing by Rosalba O’Brien)