Humble crowds adore her populist gestures. Fans and critics alike call her the co-president. Her husband, a rebellious army officer turned moderate leader, says people who think his wife is too influential are sexist.
Peru’s first lady, Nadine Heredia, is a potent political force. A telegenic 36-year-old mother of three who started the Nationalist Party along with President Ollanta Humala, she weighs in on a range of policy issues behind the scenes and, in public, often serves as the government’s messenger.
Her prominent role has made her more popular than Humala – so popular that she is widely viewed as a potential successor to the 50-year-old president.
She is arguably her party’s only viable candidate after Humala and could become Peru’s first female president if an anti-nepotism law is struck down to allow her to run in 2016.
Though Heredia insists she has no such plans, she has a remarkable knack for headlining events that feel like campaign rallies, often touching on her parents’ roots in Ayacucho, a poor province in the Andes.
“Many of you might be migrants who have come to the capital looking for opportunities,” she recently told cheering fans in Puente Piedra, a hardscrabble neighborhood on the outskirts of Lima where she led a workshop on preventing dengue fever. “We have to help each other because I’m the daughter of migrants and know the obstacles one has to overcome!”—Reuters