LIMA: Peru’s former president Alan Garcia (pix) died in hospital on Wednesday after shooting himself in the head at his home as police were about to arrest him in a sprawling corruption case. He was 69.
The health ministry said Garcia died at 10.05am (11pm Malaysia) of “a massive cerebral hemorrhage from a gunshot wound and cardiorespiratory arrest”.
Garcia was resuscitated three times after suffering heart attacks while undergoing emergency surgery, before finally succumbing, Peru’s Health Minister Zulema Tomas said.
The Casimiro Ulloa Emergency Hospital in Lima earlier confirmed he had suffered “a bullet wound to his head”.
“This morning there was a regrettable accident: the president took the decision to shoot himself,“ Erasmo Reyna, Garcia’s lawyer, told reporters outside the hospital after Garcia was admitted.
“Alan Garcia has died, long live APRA,“ said Omar Quesada, the general secretary of Garcia’s American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) party.
The attempted arrest unfolded at 6.30am (7pm Malaysia) 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.
Ricardo Pinedo, Garcia’s secretary, said the former president had four or five weapons in his home that were gifts from the armed forces. Police said he used one of those to shoot himself.
Interior Minister Carlos Moran said police “heard a gunshot a few minutes” after entering Garcia’s house before finding him “sitting down with a head wound.”
Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra expressed his sympathy on his Twitter account.
“Dismayed by the death of ex-president Alan Garcia. I send my condolences to his family and loved ones,“ Vizcarra wrote in a tweet.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and Bolivia’s Evo Morales added their own condolences, while Colombian leader Ivan Duque said “with sadness we raise prayers” for Garcia’s family, adding: “Rest in peace.”
APRA congressman Mauricio Mulder said Garcia “took a dignified and honorable decision. An honorable act in the face of fascist persecution.”
Dozens of tearful supporters congregated at the hospital entrance when the news was announced.
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 had said he would neither try to flee nor hide again.
He had recently insisted that “there is no statement, evidence or deposit that links me to any crime and even less so with the Odebrecht company or the execution of any of its projects.”
Although under investigation by the public prosecutor’s office, Garcia had not been charged with anything. He had strongly protested his innocence and seemed prepared to cooperate with authorities.
Money laundering and bribes
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).
Kuczynski, who is accused of money laundering and was being held under a 10-day preliminary detention until April 20, was also taken to hospital on Wednesday suffering from high blood pressure.
The 80-year-old was being treated in intensive care and had a cardiac catheter fitted, lawmaker Gilbert Violeta said.
Toledo faces extradition from the United States, having been charged with taking a US$20 million (RM83 million) Odebrecht bribe.
Odebrecht has admitted paying US$29 million (RM120 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 US$100,000 (RM415,000) 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.
Another ex-president, Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), is serving a 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity and corruption.
His daughter, opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, is being held in pre-trial detention for up to three years, accused of accepting US$1.2 million (Rm5 million) in illicit party funding from Odebrecht for her 2011 presidential campaign. — AFP