Former Peruvian President, Alan Garcia, Commits Suicide Ahead of Arrest
On April 17th police officers in Lima, Peru were sent to the home of former President Alan Garcia to arrest him for allegations of taking bribes from a Brazilian construction company called Odebrecht. Investigators believe that he “took bribes from Odebrecht during his second term in office, linked to a metro line building project in the capital”. Odebrecht has admitted to “paying almost $30m in bribes in Peru since 2004”. Yet, Mr. Garcia maintained his innocence, stating that there was no tangible proof against him. Before the arrest could be made Mr. Garcia reportedly went into another room under the pretext of making a phone call and shot himself in the head. He was rushed to the Casimiro Ulloa hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Mr. Garcia had been the President of Peru from 1985-1990 and again from 2006-2011. He was first elected at the age of 35, making him the youngest President Peru has ever had. He was often referred to as “Latin America’s Kennedy” for his eloquence and abilities as an orator. In his first term as President, the Peruvian government owed over $13 billion to foreign creditors and in an attempt to solve this issue Mr. Garcia announced that “Peru would limit its interest payments, capping them at no more than 10 percent of export earnings”. While this plan saw early optimism, the government quickly ran out of money, “the economy cratered, and Mr. Garcia was met with widespread protests” especially when he proposed nationalizing Peru’s banks. Inflation rates rose over 4,000%, unemployment drastically increased, and “tens of thousands of workers went on strike”. Amongst this unrest, the cocaine industry flourished, and Maoist guerrilla movements gained power. Mr. Garcia was criticized for his handling of these crises as well as the 1986 prison riots.
Despite these hardships, Mr. Garcia completed his Presidential term. Once out of office, he fled the country following accusations of embezzling government funds and “taking kickbacks for fighter jet purchases”. He returned to Peru in 2001 and attempted to re-invent his political and public image. He presented himself as “a centrist, business-friendly politician” and was re-elected as President in 2006 with over 50% of the vote. Mr. Garcia was able to create the “largest Peruvian budget surplus in four decades” during his Presidency by trimming the “salaries of government workers and sell[ing] off assets”. Furthering his success, “his government launched infrastructure projects credited with bringing electricity to more than 900 towns.” However, Mr. Garcia’s political image suffered again in 2009 by his handling of a deadly clash between police and indigenous protesters and by his decision to grant pardons to convicted drug traffickers. Mr. Garcia ran for President again in 2016 but lost with a mere 6% of the vote.