Ex-president of Peru takes own life shortly before arrest

Alan Garcia investigated on suspicion of taking bribe from construction giant Odebrecht

Former  Peruvian president Alan Garcia, who has  taken his own life. File photograph: Cris Bouroncle/AFP/Getty

Former Peruvian president Alan Garcia, who has taken his own life. File photograph: Cris Bouroncle/AFP/Getty

 

Peru’s former president Alan Garcia has died after deliberately shooting himself when police tried to arrest him in connection with a multibillion-dollar Latin American corruption scandal.

“I am saddened by the death of former president Alan Garcia,” tweeted the country’s current president, Martin Vizcarra, confirming the news. “I send my condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Earlier, Garcia’s lawyer, Erasmo Reyna, told local media his client “took the decision to shoot himself” early on Wednesday after officers arrived at his home in the capital, Lima, to place him under preventive detention.

Peru’s interior minister, Carlos Moran, told journalists Garcia had told police officers he was going to call his lawyer and had “shut himself in his bedroom” before a shot was heard.

The 69-year-old politician – who is facing accusations of taking bribes from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht during his 2006-2011 presidency – was admitted to a nearby hospital soon after, at about 6.45am, suffering from a gunshot wound to the head.

Before his death was confirmed Peru’s health minister, Zulema Tomas, told reporters Garcia was in a “very serious” condition and had suffered three heart attacks from which he had been resuscitated. A 27-strong medical team, including neurosurgeons and intensive care specialists, was fighting to save the former president’s life.

“This is a day of national grief,” Alberto Quintanilla, a left-wing congressman, told local television after confirmation of Garcia’s death.

Peru is in mourning. Our political system is mourning and we express solidarity with the family. What has happened is very regrettable.”

Odebrecht scandal

Garcia is one of four former Peruvian presidents to be sucked into the vast Odebrecht scandal – by which multimillion-dollar bribes were paid to secure construction contracts across the region – alongside Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo.

Last week, a judge ordered that Mr Kuczynski be placed under preventive custody for 10 days as part of a money-laundering investigation. Known as PPK, Mr Kuczynski led Peru from 2016 until he resigned last March before a congressional move to impeach him over links to Odebrecht.

Garcia served two terms as president – from 1985 to 1990 and then 2006 to 2011 – and is one of Peru’s most prominent politicians. He rejected claims of wrongdoing, painting himself as the victim of political persecution. Last year he unsuccessfully requested political asylum in Uruguay after seeking shelter in its embassy in Lima.

“I have never sold myself and this has been demonstrated,” Garcia tweeted on Tuesday.

The attempt to arrest Garcia came just days after an investigation revealed his personal secretary, Luis Nava, had allegedly received $4 million from Odebrecht’s off-the-books bribery department.

‘Moral assassination’

In an interview on Tuesday, Garcia said he “emphatically” rejected the accusations against him which he described as “speculations” and “moral assassination”.

Political allies from Garcia’s once-powerful party, Arpa, expressed shock and outrage at his death.

“At this moment of profound pain we must reaffirm our unity and our brotherhood,” tweeted congressman Jorge del Castillo, calling on supporters to gather outside the party’s headquarters on Wednesday night.

Another ally, Mauricio Mulder, described Garcia’s decision to take his own life as “an honourable act” taken in response to the “fascist persecution” of political foes. – Guardian

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