Peru’s former president Alan Garcia shot himself early on Wednesday after police arrived at his home in the capital Lima to arrest him in connection with a bribery investigation, a police source said.
Garcia, 69, underwent emergency surgery at the Casimiro Ulloa hospital and suffered three cardiac arrests, Health Minister Zulema Tomas said in broadcast comments. She said he was in “very critical” condition.
Local TV channel America reported Garcia was in a coma and broadcast images of Garcia’s son, supporters and legislators entering the hospital, where police in riot gear stood by.
“Let’s pray to God to give him strength,” Erasmo Reyna, Garcia’s lawyer, told journalists at the hospital
Garcia, a skilled orator who has led Peru’s once-powerful Apra party for decades, governed Peru as a nationalist from 1985 to 1990 before remaking himself as a free-market proponent and winning a new five-year term in 2006.
Corruption cases have reached the highest levels in Peru politics, most notably involving officials and Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant that has admitted to spreading some $800 million US in bribes to officials across Latin America, including $29 million in Peru.
Garcia was banned from leaving the country while under investigation in the Odebrecht case, while President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was forced to resign in March 2018 after allegations he repeatedly lied about his connections to Odebrecht.
Martin Vizcarra, who had been serving as Peru’s ambassador to Canada, succeeded Kuczynski.
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.
Odebrecht’s Peruvian unit formalized an agreement in February with authorities to pay a multimillion dollar fine to allow it to continue operating in the country in return for providing evidence about officials it bribed.
Road to Brazil
Odebrecht took responsibility for bribes paid in relation to several contracts, including the construction of Lima’s Metro while Garcia was in office.
Two other contracts reportedly involved the construction of a road linking Brazil and Peru during the government of former president Alejandro Toledo, between 2001 and 2006.
Toledo, 73, is now in the United States. He was arrested last month for public drunkenness in northern California but released back into the community.
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s office said at the time it was aware that Toledo was wanted by Peruvian officials, but added that “the existence of charges in Peru alone does not authorize the subject’s arrest in the United States.”
Odebrecht has also been tied to corruption probes involving officials in Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Chile and Mexico.
This story originally appeared on CBC