Alan Garcia (REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo/File Photo)

Peru’s former president Alan Garcia died in a hospital in Lima on Wednesday (17 April) after shooting himself as police arrived at his house to arrest him in connection with a bribery probe, authorities said on Wednesday.

Garcia, who had repeatedly denied wrongdoing, was 69.

President Martin Vizcarra said on Twitter that he was “consternated” by Garcia’s death, and sent his condolences to his family members.

Garcia underwent emergency surgery at the Casimiro Ulloa hospital and suffered three cardiac arrests, Health Minister Zulema Tomas said in broadcast comments.

Garcia was one of nine people a judge ordered to be arrested on Wednesday in connection with an investigation into bribes distributed by Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company that triggered Latin America’s biggest graft scandal when it admitted publicly in late 2016 that it had secured lucrative contracts across the region with bribes.

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,” Moran said. “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.”

Last year, Garcia asked Uruguay for political asylum after he was banned from leaving the country to keep him from fleeing or obstructing the investigation. Uruguay rejected the request.

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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