Lima – Peru’s former President Alan Garcia died in a hospital in Lima on Wednesday after shooting himself as police arrived at his house to arrest him in connection with a bribery probe, authorities said.
Garcia, who had repeatedly denied wrongdoing, was 69.
President Martin Vizcarra said on Twitter that he was “consternated” by Garcia’s death, and sent his condolences to his family members.
Garcia shot himself in the head after police arrived at his home to arrest him in connection with a bribery investigation, the interior ministry said.
“Garcia, 69, underwent emergency surgery at the Casimiro Ulloa hospital and suffered three cardiac arrests,’’ Health Minister Zulema Tomas said in broadcast comments.
Garcia was one of nine people a judge ordered to be arrested in connection with an investigation into bribes distributed by Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company.
Local TV channel America reported Garcia was in a coma and showed images of his son, supporters and lawmakers arriving at the hospital, where police in riot gear stood by.
A skilled orator who led Peru’s once-powerful Apra party for decades, Garcia 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 had denied wrongdoing involving Odebrecht and blamed his legal troubles on political persecution.
“Others might sell out, not me,” Garcia said in broadcast comments on Tuesday, repeating a phrase he has used frequently as his political foes became ensnared in the Odebrecht investigation.
Interior Minister Carlos Moran said at a news conference that Garcia had told police he needed to call his attorney after they arrived at his home in Lima to arrest him.
“He entered his room and closed the door behind him.
“Within a few minutes, a shot from a firearm was heard, and police forcibly entered the room and found Mr. Garcia sitting with a wound in his head,” Moran said.
In 2018, Garcia asked Uruguay for political asylum after he was banned from leaving the country to keep him from fleeing or obstructing the investigation, while Uruguay rejected the request.
Garcia 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 to 2018 and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was arrested without charges recently.
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.
However they have all denied wrongdoing in connection with Odebrecht.
In Peru, criminal suspects can be ordered to spend up to three years in jail before trial if prosecutors can show they have evidence that likely would lead to a conviction and the suspect would likely flee or try to interfere in the investigation. (Reuters/NAN)