LIMA, Peru — The president of Peru’s conference of bishops called for calm after two-time former Peruvian President Alan Garcia died April 17 after shooting himself in the head as authorities prepared to arrest him.
“A sad end for this person, who was also important, independently from political and financial situations,” Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo said. “He was a political leader.”
Noting that there were strong opinions about the former president, the archbishop urged “serenity, calm, and that these situations not occur again.”
The Peruvian bishops’ conference later issued a brief statement of sympathy to Garcia’s family, friends and colleagues, saying, “We call on the mercy and tenderness of God the Father, who knows the depths of the human heart, to grant him the joy of his eternal presence.”
Garcia, 69, was accused of taking bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht during his second term of office, 2006-2011. His first term, 1985-1990, was marked by hyperinflation, economic chaos, and brutal massacres by both leftist rebels and security forces.
When police arrived to arrest him, Garcia asked to make a phone call, according to Interior Minister Carlos Moran. He went into a room, closed the door and shot himself with a gun he had in his home. He underwent emergency surgery at a nearby hospital but died several hours later.
In November 2018, Garcia unsuccessfully sought asylum from Uruguay, claiming he was a victim of political persecution.
When Pope Francis met with Peru’s bishops during his visit in January 2018, he decried the fact that nearly all of the country’s living former presidents faced corruption charges. Most are related to Odebrecht, which paid bribes or kickbacks to government officials and candidates in various countries in Latin America and Africa.
Former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-2018) was taken to a hospital April 10, just days after being arrested. Former President Ollanta Humala (2011-2016) and his wife, Nadine Heredia, were released in April 2018 after nine months in preventive detention. An arrest warrant is out for former President Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), who is a fugitive in the United States.
Former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) is serving a prison sentence for corruption and human rights violations, while his daughter, Keiko, is in prison while under investigation for corruption.
Before Garcia left office in 2011, Odebrecht donated to Peru a replica of the famous statue of Christ that overlooks Rio de Janeiro. Several Peruvian prelates, including Cabrejos, attended the dedication of the statue.
In his comment to journalists April 17, Cabrejos suggested that Peruvian officials reconsider the law that allows suspects to be placed in preventive detention for up to 36 months while under investigation, noting that some people contend it is too long a time.