• Mayor of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Percy Fernandez touches the thigh of television journalist Mercedes Guzman. (Screenshot: SBS)
The mayor of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Percy Fernandez, made a public apology to a local television journalist after he touched her thigh during a public event.
Source
AP, Reuters
8 May 2014 - 1:27 PM  UPDATED 8 May 2014 - 2:20 PM

The mayor of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Percy Fernandez, made a public apology to a journalist on Monday after he was accused of sexually harassing her during a public event. 

The incident, which was caught on camera, shows Fernandez touching the thigh of Mercedes Guzman, a journalist from a local television channel. Guzman then attempts to remove the hand while Fernandez tells her not to be "selfish".

After the clip was broadcast on Bolivian television, Fernandez wrote a letter of apology to Guzman, but this was rejected by the journalist and her husband. 

"This is unacceptable and we haven't accepted it because from the beginning we have not asked for an apology in the form of a letter and some written thing like this because the man had the audacity to do an act that is marked by the definitive morals of society, so he has to have the courage to ask my wife for an apology in front of the media," said Espindola.

On Monday, the mayor complied with the request and apologised to the journalist and her family via a public video.

"Dear Mrs. Mercedes Guzman, I want to publicly express, to both you and your family, my distress about this matter. There was never an intention to offend her," he said. 

The 75-year-old Fernandez has caused controversy in recent years for alleged inappropriate behaviour during public events, some of which has been caught on camera. 

In 2012, after being questioned by a journalist while leaving a news conference, Fernandez allegedly became infuriated and accused the woman of having a 'dengue face', saying there was no way she could be working in television due to her appearance.

In the same year, he was filmed running his hands over the bottom of a female legislator at a ceremony. At another event, he planted a lengthy kiss on a seemingly unwilling female engineer.

Fernandez has been mayor of the city of more than 1 million several times and has lately supported President Evo Morales, who in February called him the country's best mayor.