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Former Peru president kills himself to avoid arrest 


REUTERS

Former Peru president kills himself to avoid arrest 

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LIMA – Peru’s former president Alan Garcia shot himself in the head on Wednesday to avoid arrest in connection with alleged bribes from Brazilian builder Odebrecht, taking his own life, in the most dramatic turn yet in Latin America’s largest graft scandal.

Garcia, a towering and charismatic figure who played a central role in Peruvian politics for more than three decades, died in a hospital at age 69 after shooting himself at his house in Lima when police arrived with a warrant for his arrest.

His death shocked the Andean country that had watched his transition from a fiery leftist who was elected president at age 36 to a free-market crusader who won a second term in 2006.

A pugnacious politician considered one of Latin America’s best orators, Garcia had long been dogged by graft allegations that he brushed off as baseless political smears.

But prosecutors investigating Odebrecht gathered enough evidence to secure a judicial order this week to hold Garcia in pre-trial detention while they prepared charges against him, arguing that he might flee or obstruct their work.

Odebrecht, a family-owned construction conglomerate, spurred probes across Latin America after it admitted publicly in late 2016 that it had secured lucrative contracts in the region by bribing politicians. Former Odebrecht executives are now cooperating with prosecutors as informants.

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.”

Garcia’s supporters prepared for a wake at the headquarters of his once-powerful party APRA as condolences poured in from regional leaders, including Chile’s conservative Sebastian Pinera and Bolivia’s leftist Evo Morales.

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.”

Garcia’s supporters prepared for a wake at the headquarters of his once-powerful party APRA as condolences poured in from regional leaders, including Chile’s conservative Sebastian Pinera and Bolivia’s leftist Evo Morales.

Garcia’s death will likely throw cold water on the Odebrecht probe in Peru. It may also deepen the divide between centrist President Martin Vizcarra and the rightwing opposition that controls Congress, where Garcia had influential allies. (Reuters)

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