Peru’s ex-leader commits suicide during police raid

Former Peruvian president Alan Garcia

Former Peruvian president Alan García shot himself in the head during arrest 

Peru’s ex-president Alan García committed suicide on Wednesday after police arrived at his house in Lima to arrest him in connection with a bribery investigation.

When the authorities arrived at the home of the former leftist president, with an arrest warrant, García locked himself into his bedroom, shot himself and was rushed to a hospital, his personal secretary told reporters.

According to CBC News, members of once-powerful Apra party announced the 69-year-old’s death to crowds gathered outside of hospital Casimiro Ulloa, where he underwent emergency surgery. Health Minister Zulema Tomas said he suffered three cardiac arrests after being admitted.

Police stand guard outside a hospital where Peru’s former President Alan Garcia was taken after he shot himself, in Lima, Peru, on April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

Supporters of Garcia expressed shock and anger following news of his death.

A line of officers in helmets and riot shields stood guard outside the hospital, keeping them at a distance.

President Martin Vizcarra, whom Garcia had blamed for the investigation, announced his death on Twitter. “Dismayed over the death of García,” he wrote. “I send my condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Reuters reports, García was one of nine people a judge ordered to be arrested on Wednesday in connection with an investigation into bribes distributed by Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company that triggered Latin America’s biggest graft scandal when it admitted publicly in late 2016 that it had secured lucrative contracts across the region with bribes.

A skilled orator who led Peru’s once-powerful Apra party for decades, García governed as a nationalist from 1985 to 1990 before remaking himself as a free-market proponent and winning another five-year term in 2006.

He was hailed as “the president of hope.”

García had denied wrongdoing involving Odebrecht and blamed his legal troubles on political persecution.

“Others might sell out, not me,” García said in broadcast comments on Tuesday, repeating a phrase he has used frequently as his political foes became ensnared in the Odebrecht investigation.

García also denied the claims on Twitter saying that all accusations against him were speculation.

“I never sold myself,” he tweeted.

After police arrived at Garcia’s house to arrest him early on Wednesday, Garcia told them he had to call his attorney, Interior Minister Carlos Moran said.

“He entered a room and closed the door behind him,” Moran told a news conference shortly before Garcia’s death was confirmed. “Within a few minutes, a shot from a firearm was heard and police forcibly entered and found Mr. Garcia sitting with a wound in his head.”

Last year, García asked Uruguay for political asylum after he was banned from leaving the country to keep him from fleeing or obstructing the investigation. Uruguay rejected the request.

García would have been the third former president in Peru to have been jailed in the Odebrecht case. Ollanta Humala spent nine months in pre-trial detention in 2017-2018 and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was arrested without charges last week.

A fourth former president, Alejandro Toledo, is fighting extradition from California after a judge in Peru ordered him jailed for 18 months in connection with Odebrecht in 2017.

All have denied wrongdoing in connection with Odebrecht.

Vizcarra ordered flags flown at half staff and declared a three-day national period of mourning for Garcia.

Garcia’s family members opted to break with protocol and not have Vizcarra or a government representative preside over his funeral, local media said.

Supporters of Peruvian ex-president Alan Garcia participate in a memorial service at the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) party headquarter’s in the Andean city. (AFP / CRIS BOURONCLE)

On Wednesday night, his body was taken to a memorial service at his party’s headquarters, known as the “House of the People,” a blue colonial-style building where Garcia once celebrated his presidential victories.

Several men carried his wooden casket through a thick crowd of supporters chanting, “Alan! Alan!”

“He’s still with the people!” they cried out.

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