Thousands of Peruvians bid farewell to Alan Garcia
Lima, April 19 (IANS) Thousands of Peruvians gathered to say last goodbye to former President Alan Garcia, dead at 69 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, at the headquarters of his party, a site chosen by his family for his wake in lieu of any official honours.
Starting early Thursday morning, supporters of the Peruvian Aprista Party (PAP) began arriving at the wake at the Casa del Pueblo carrying flowers and white handkerchiefs, Efe news reported.
Garcia died on Wednesday at Lima’s Casimiro Ulloa Hospital, where he was rushed after shooting himself in the head as police arrived at his home to arrest him for allegedly taking bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
The government of President Martin Vizcarra declared three days of national mourning, ordered flags flown at half-mast at public sites and prepared to hold a state funeral for Garcia, who governed Peru from 1985 to 1990 and again from 2006 to 2011.
Lima Archbishop Carlos Castillo delivered a prayer before Garcia’s casket accompanied by the papal nuncio, Nicola Girasoli, while Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani had been on hand minutes earlier and delivered comments that brought applause from those present.
Cipriani declared "Basta!" (enough) to what he called "the persecution" of the people being investigated in Peru in the Odebrecht case, and he emphasized that Garcia had done "much good" for the country during his two administrations.
Among the large number of people at the wake were Garcia’s six children, his ex-wife Pilar Nores and his last partner, US-born Roxanne Cheesman, as well as his mother Nytha Perez, who was seated in a wheelchair.
The former president’s oldest daughter, Carla Garcia, wrote on Twitter that she bade her father farewell "very proud to be Alan’s daughter."
"These are difficult times in which I feel much sadness, but I am accompanied by the dignity and the life lessons that he gave me," she said.
Last November, Garcia took refuge at the Uruguayan Embassy in Lima and requested asylum hours after a court granted a request from prosecutors to bar him from leaving the country for 18 months as authorities investigated the Odebrecht charges.
Odebrecht reached a settlement in December 2016 with the US Justice Department in which the firm pleaded guilty to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world.
As part of the settlement, Odebrecht has been cooperating with prosecutors in the affected countries to bring corrupt officials to justice.
Peruvian Judge Juan Carlos Sanchez Balbuena ruled last fall that documents handed over by Odebrecht provided "sufficient elements" to support the accusations against Garcia.
Odebrecht executive Carlos Nostre told Peruvian prosecutors that the company paid up to $24 million in bribes to secure the contract to build Lima Metro’s Line 1 during Garcia’s presidency.
Garcia, who had been living in Spain for a number of years, returned to Peru last year for questioning in the case.