Peru's former President Garcia dies after shooting himself as police arrived

Alan Garcia shot himself as police were about to arrest him in connection with a bribery scandal. He was rushed to the hospital, where he underwent surgery before dying of his injuries.

Alan Garcia, the former president of Peru, died at Lima's Jose Casimiro Ulloa Hospital on Wednesday after he shot himself in the head at his Lima home as police arrived to arrest him in connection with an ongoing bribery investigation.

Garcia, who served as president between 1985 and 1990 and then again from 2006 to 2011, was wanted in connection to the sprawling Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption investigation and his ties to the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

President Martin Vizcarra said, "We are shocked by the death of former President Alan Garcia."

Hundreds of millions in bribes

The former president is suspected of having taken bribes from Odebrecht in return for granting them a contract to build a new subway system in Lima during his second stint in office. 

Odebrecht is at the heart of the Lava Jato investigation. In 2016 the company entered into a plea bargain with the US Justice Department, admitting that it had paid Latin American officials some $800 million (€708 million) in bribes in return for building contracts. The company also admitted that it had paid three successive Peruvian presidents $29 million as part of the scam.

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Business | 22.12.2016

The bribing Brazilians

Three former presidents arrested

Garcia's successor Ollanta Humala was arrested in July 2017 on suspicion of money laundering, and Humala's successor Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was arrested on the same charge just last week.

The 69-year-old Garcia, who denies any wrongdoing, had previously sought asylum in Uruguay, though his request was denied after Peru banned him from leaving the country.

From nationalist to free marketer

Garcia rose to prominence in the 1980s as a nationalist firebrand, though his first tenure in office was marked by hyperinflation, corruption, and the growth of the communist Shining Path guerrilla movement.

When he returned to power in 2006, he positioned himself as a free-market conservative. His second presidency saw a commodities and investment boom for the country, with Odebrecht being one of the main drivers thereof.

How Peru's political crisis unfolded

A political crisis unfolds

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has survived the beginnings of an impeachment process, significant allegations of corruption and the backlash of pardoning a jailed dictator. But with protests growing against his government, can former investment banker fulfill his presidential mandate? DW examines the situation.

How Peru's political crisis unfolded

Corrupt beginnings

In December, Odebrecht told Peru's parliament that it made payments amounting to $4.8 million (€4.07 million) to a company controlled by Kuczynski while he was a minister in a previous government. Despite first denying any ties with the Brazilian construction company, he later admitted that he worked on an advisory basis for the firm, a move that did not sit well with many Peruvians.

How Peru's political crisis unfolded

Struggle for survival

After the revelations emerged, parliament took little time to debate whether to impeach him. Days after Odebrecht's testimony, the legislature initiated a debate on impeachment with enough support to push formal proceedings through a vote. However, when lawmakers finally voted on whether to move forward, they failed to garner enough votes for impeachment, with some saying a deal had been made.

How Peru's political crisis unfolded

Fujimori's ghost

On Christmas Eve, Kuczynski pardoned former President Alberto Fujimori who was serving a 25-year jail sentence for atrocities committed during his tenure. Kuczynski cited Fujimori's waning health, but others said it may have part of a deal to survive impeachment. Civil conflict between 1980 and 2000 involving leftist militants killed an estimated 70,000 people in the Andean country.

How Peru's political crisis unfolded

'No to pardon'

The pardon infuriated thousands of Peruvians, prompting protests on Christmas Day and the day after. Protesters held placards lamenting Fujimori's presidency while others displayed photographs of Peruvians disappeared during his tenure from 1990 to 2000. Rights groups said a request had been made to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to examine a challenge to the legality of the pardon.

How Peru's political crisis unfolded

Supporters gather

Fujimori's supporters also rallied for his pardon. Despite having served time in prison, Fujimori continues to maintain a level of popularity in Peru for defeating the Maoist insurgent group Shining Path and stabilizing the economy. His supporters have gathered outside his hospital in Lima, where doctors described his health as "delicate," saying he's unlikely to leave intensive care soon.

How Peru's political crisis unfolded

Jumping ship

While protests have dented Kuczynski's presidency, the resignations of senior officials has made things worse. Culture Minister Salvador Der Solar, a former filmmaker, stepped down within days of the protests. Others to jump ship included former Interior Minister Carlos Basombrio, a presidential advisor and the head of the Justice Ministry's office of human rights.

How Peru's political crisis unfolded

Uncertain future

While Kuczynski managed to narrowly survive an impeachment process in what observers have speculated was part of a deal to pardon Fujimori, it is unclear whether he'll be able to do so in the future. However, what is certain is that he faces an uphill battle with growing anger on the streets of Peru that threatens to topple his government.

js/msh (AP, Reuters)

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