LIMA – Peruvian lawmakers expressed on Monday outrage at a former president’s request for political asylum in Uruguay.
Ex-head of state Alan Garcia asked Uruguay for asylum on Saturday, hours after a Peruvian court granted a request from prosecutors to bar him from leaving the country for 18 months as authorities investigate a charge that he took bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
Garcia is suspected of accepting money in exchange for helping Odebrecht win a lucrative public works contract during his 2006-2011 administration.
“The recidivist Alan Garcia once again seeks asylum to evade corruption accusations,” said a lawmaker for the center-right Popular Action party, Yonhy Lescano.
“He didn’t have the courage to face justice. Uruguay should not protect this individual if it doesn’t want to cover up illegal actions. Utterly shameless,” Lescano wrote on Twitter.
He recalled that the former president was granted asylum in Colombia in 1992 after then-President Alberto Fujimori dissolved the opposition-controlled Congress in a “self-coup.”
Garcia, who in the early 1990s faced allegations of graft stemming from his turbulent 1985-1990 presidency, when the country was racked by hyper-inflation, came home in 2001 after the expiration of the statute of limitations for those charges and went on to win another term as head of state.
Indira Huilca, a lawmaker for the Broad Front coalition of leftist parties, said the leadership of Garcia’s American Popular Revolutionary Alliance – Peruvian Aprista Party (APRA) had recommended that he submit the asylum request.
She added that now it is clear why that party has made a big push to prevent actions by political parties from being investigated under organized crime laws, referring to a bill that APRA introduced late last month.
“So many accomplices trembling. National shame,” the lawmaker wrote on Twitter.
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.
Judge Juan Carlos Sanchez Balbuena ruled Saturday 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 has been living in Spain for a number of years, returned to Peru last Thursday for questioning in the case.
Three other former presidents, Alejandro Toledo, Ollanta Humala and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, have also been caught up in the Odebrecht probe, along with main opposition leader and two-time presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori.
Fujimori is the daughter of disgraced former head of state Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses and corruption.