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Peru’s ex-president kills himself to avoid arrest

Updated April 18, 2019

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The coffin with the remains of late Peruvian former President Alan Garcia arrives at the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) party headquarter's in Lima. ─ AFP
The coffin with the remains of late Peruvian former President Alan Garcia arrives at the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) party headquarter's in Lima. ─ AFP

LIMA: Peru’s former president Alan Garcia died in a hospital on Wednesday after shooting himself in the head at his home as police were about to arrest him in a corruption case, a party official said. He was 69.

Garcia was resuscitated three times after suffering cardiac arrest while undergoing emergency surgery, before finally succumbing, Peru’s Health Minister Zulema Tomas had said. The Casimiro Ulloa Emergency Hospital in Lima earlier confirmed he had suffered “a bullet wound to his head”.

The attempted arrest took place at 6:30am (1130 GMT) at Garcia’s home in Lima’s upmarket Miraflores neighbourhood. Police were acting on an arrest warrant for money laundering that would have allowed Garcia to be held for 10 days, giving authorities time to gather evidence and prevent him from fleeing, the prosecutor’s office said.

Garcia, who was president from 1985-90 and again from 2006-11, was suspected of having taken bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in return for large-scale public works contracts.

In November, he sought refuge in the Uruguayan Embassy after a court ordered him not to leave the country for 18 months. He applied for asylum but following 16 days in the embassy he left when his request was denied.

Garcia, a social democrat, claimed to be the target of political persecution, an accusation denied by centrist Vizcarra. On Tuesday, Garcia said he would neither try to flee nor hide again.

Although under investigation by the public prosecutor’s office, Garcia had not been charged with anything. He was one of four Peruvian ex-presidents embroiled in various corruption scandals — alongside Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-18), Ollanta Humala (2011-16) and Alejandro Toledo (2001-06).

Odebrecht has admitted paying $29 million in bribes to Peruvian officials over three administrations. Some of those payments were allegedly made during Garcia’s second term in office to secure a contract to build the Lima metro.

Peruvian press reports also claim Garcia received a $100,000 payment from an illicit Odebrecht fund for giving a speech to Brazilian business leaders in Sao Paulo in May 2012.

Prosecutors allege that Garcia and 21 other officials conspired to enable Dutch company ATM Terminals to win a 2011 concession to operate a terminal at the port of Callao, near Lima.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2019