May 23, 2019
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Thousands of Peruvians bid farewell to Alan Garcia

Lima, Apr 18 (efe-epa).- Thousands of Peruvians gathered on Thursday to say their last goodbyes 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 honors.

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.

Garcia died 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.

At the wake, PAP lawmakers and leaders received various officials and politicians who stopped by to express their condolences to the family.

One of those who came to the wake was the founder of the Popular Christian Party, Luis Bedoya Reyes, who emphasized Garcia's role as a political leader.

"Every sacrifice has a price. In dying, Alan has once again united us and joined us with all of you. Hold true to that law, because only in this way will you once again become really strong," Bedoya said.

"Peru needs responsible parties who accept as their destiny the great mission that corresponds to them. Beyond the exchange of opinions, the union must prevail," the veteran politician, who turned 100 in February, said.

In addition, 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.

PAP lawmaker Jorge Del Castillo said that the family's decision is for "there to be no acts of protocol by official order" by representatives of the government after Garcia's death.

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 United States 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.

Also ordered arrested on Wednesday were Luis Nava, presidential secretary under Garcia, and Miguel Atala, another close associate and suspected front man of the former president.

Garcia's legal situation worsened last Sunday, when news broke that Odebrecht had agreed to share information with Peruvian authorities revealing that Nava and his son, Jose Antonio Nava, received $4 million in exchange for the Lima Metro contract.

Besides Garcia and Humala, two other former presidents, Alejandro Toledo and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, have been caught up in the Odebrecht probe, along with two-time presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori, daughter of disgraced former head of state Alberto, who is serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses and corruption.

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