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Peru ex-president Garcia shoots himself as police try to arrest him

(Reuters/TBI Africa.com) Peru’s former President, Alan Garcia, on Wednesday 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.

Tomas said he was in “very critical” condition.

A doctor, who spoke to newsmen alongside Tomas at the hospital, said the bullet entered and left his head.

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.

“Let’s pray to God to give him strength,” Erasmo Reyna, Garcia’s lawyer, told newsmen at the hospital, as Garcia’s supporters chanted slogans in support.

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.

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