Friday, 14 Dec 2018

Uruguay rejects asylum claim of Peruvian ex-president Garcia

LIMA, Peru – The former Peruvian President, Alan Garcia, announced Monday that he would cooperate with prosecutors who were investigating him for corruption after Uruguay rejected his asylum application and had forced him to leave the residence of his ambassador to the Andean nation.

In refusing Garcia's asylum claim, Uruguay's president, Tabare Vazquez, said there was no evidence to support the politician's claim that he was being politically targeted.

"In Peru, the three branches of government operate freely and autonomously, especially the judiciary," said Tabare Vazquez.

Around the time Vazquez announced his decision in the Uruguayan capital, a silver sedan left his ambassador's residence in Lima to take Garcia first to his daughter's house and then to his mansion in the green neighborhood. from Miraflores. From there, an assistant read a statement in which Garcia was committed to cooperating with prosecutors, claiming that he had requested asylum only because he had received information as to what he would be detained while he had never missed several judicial citations.

"When I am called to testify, I will do it quickly, as I already did, and hoping that the rumors about my arbitrary detention are false," the statement said.

Garcia is a refugee in the diplomatic mission of Uruguay just over two weeks ago, after a judge banned him from leaving the country for 18 months, while investigators were investigating allegations that he received illegal payments from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Garcia claimed to have been the victim of false testimony from political enemies who reportedly told prosecutors that he took bribes in Odebrecht during the construction of the Lima Metro during his 2006-2011 term. He was not charged.

Odebrecht is at the center of the biggest corruption scandal in Latin America since joining a plea agreement concluded in 2016 with the US Department of Justice that it had paid corrupt authorities nearly $ 800 million in Latin America in exchange major infrastructure contracts.

The scandal has led to the imprisonment of many politicians in the region, especially in Peru, where former president Pedro Pablo Kucyznski was forced to resign for hiding his past job as a consultant for Odebrecht and Garcia, as well as two other former presidents, Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo are currently being questioned for allegedly cashing illegal payments.

Garcia's asylum claim seems to have generated little sympathy among Peruvians accustomed to the widespread corruption of the highest officials. Just half a dozen loyal supporters of his APRA party rallied outside his home Monday to shout for support, just a few dozen when he fled to the ambassador's home.

But President Martin Vizcarra has sharply reprimanded his government since replacing Kuczynski and has been working to provide Uruguay with information to refute Garcia's claims.

Jose Ugaz, a former prosecutor leading the country's most prominent criminal investigation against former President Alberto Fujimori, said Uruguay's refusal of Garcia's request would help consolidate the state's right in Peru.

"It's a blow to impunity and corruption," said Ugaz, also chairman of the Transparency International anti-corruption watchdog group, in an interview.

Garcia, 69, was a fiery populist man whose first irregular presidency in the 1980s was marked by hyperinflation, rampant corruption and the rise of the Shining Path guerrilla movement.

When he came back to power two decades later, he led a more conservative government, contributing to the establishment of a commodity investment boom in which Odebrecht played a major role.

This is the second time that Garcia is trying to flee to another country amidst lawsuits for corruption. After the end of his first government, he spent nine years in exile in Colombia, then in France, after his successor, Alberto Fujimori, raided his home and reopened a corruption investigation.


AP writer Joshua Goodman contributed to the report from Bogota, Colombia

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, disseminated, rewritten or redistributed.


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