Alan Garcia, a former president of Peru suspected in a continent-wide corruption scandal, died in a Lima hospital Wednesday after shooting himself as police arrived to search his home.
President Martin Vizcarra confirmed his death in a tweet.
Garcia killed himself when officers attempted to detain him, his lawyer, Erasmo Reyna, said.
“President Garcia made the decision of a free man,” Mauricio Mulder, a lawmaker with Garcia’s Apra party, told reporters outside the hospital. “For we Apristas, who are his family, it’s an act of dignity and honor in the face of a fascist, sick, persecution.”
Garcia was president of the South American nation between 1985 and 1990 and again from 2006 to 2011. A left-wing populist, he presided over an economic collapse in his first term before embracing free-market policies in his second term, and the country enjoyed rapid growth. But, like top officials across the continent, he was swept up in the Odebrecht scandal and was under investigation on suspicion of taking a bribe from the Brazilian construction giant. He had denied wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, prosecutors and police came to his Lima home for a search. Garcia went into his bedroom on the second floor, saying he was going to call his lawyer, Peru’s Interior Minister Carlos Moran said. A few minutes later a shot was heard.
Garcia was taken to a nearby hospital at 6:40 a.m. local time and underwent surgery, Health Minister Zulema Tomas told reporters after visiting the emergency room. Garcia received cardiopulmonary resuscitation three times, she said.
Garcia unsuccessfully sought asylum in the Uruguayan embassy in November after a court barred him from leaving the country for 18 months while he’s being investigated in connection with a rail contract Odebrecht won during his second administration. He accused Vizcarra of plotting to jail him for political reasons.
Probes into campaign donations and bribes Odebrecht paid have embroiled Peru’s past four presidents and stalled major infrastructure projects, slowing its economy. Former leader Ollanta Humala has been barred from leaving the country, and the government is seeking Alejandro Toledo’s extradition from the U.S.
A court last week ordered the detention of former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski for 10 days. Prosecutors have requested a separate court order to jail Kuczynski for 36 months as they prepare laundering charges. He has denied any wrongdoing.
(c) 2019, Bloomberg · John Quigley