outside a hospital in peru, many police

Police arrive outside a hospital where Peru's former President Alan García was taken after he shot himself, in Lima, Peru, April 17, 2019.

Credit:

Guadalupe Pardo/Reuters

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

García, who had repeatedly denied wrongdoing, was 69.

President Martín Vizcarra said on Twitter that he was "consternated" by Garcia's death, and sent his condolences to his family members.

Peru's former president Alan García shot himself in the head early on Wednesday after police arrived at his home to arrest him in connection with a bribery investigation, the interior ministry said.

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

A doctor who spoke to journalists alongside Tomás at the hospital said the bullet entered and left his head.

García 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.

Local TV channel America reported García 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, García's lawyer, told journalists at the hospital, as García's supporters chanted slogans in support.

A skilled orator who led Peru's once-powerful Apra party for decades, García 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," García 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 Morán said at a news conference that García 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," Morán said. "Within a few minutes, a shot from a firearm was heard, and police forcibly entered the room and found Mr. García sitting with a wound in his head."

Last year, García 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.

García 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 2017-2018 and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was arrested without charges last week.

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.

All have 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.

Marco Aquino of Reuters reported from Lima. 

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