Photo by: Karel Navarro

On Wednesday, April 2019, the former president of Peru, Alan Garcia, took his own life over corruption charges and before he could be arrested by the police at his doorsteps, he did the act. His suicide sparked mixed feelings. Some called it ‘an act of cowardice’, while for some, it was ‘an act of dignity’ (Foggin, 2019).

It all began from Brazil, where an operation named ‘car wash’ unraveled a series of an unending network of organized crimes including illegal contracts, kickbacks, money-laundering. All this culminated in the Odebrecht’s downfall. It was a Brazil-based construction firm, which had been involved in a king-making role, in terms of financing the politicians in Brazil (Gallas, 2019) which ended up as a king-slayer.

Garcia’s suicide is but a tip of the iceberg, reflecting to the venal trends not only in the country’s recent history but also in the entire continent. According to Transparency International report on the perception of corruption, Latin America scores the lowest, with Odebrecht involving the biggest corruption scandal gripping as many as ten countries of the Americas (5 Corruption scandals that shocked Latin America, 2018). On December 21, 2016, the Company pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a penalty of $ 3.5 billion to US, Switzerland and Brazil (2016).

In a way, Odebrecht case is like a house of card which was eventually brought down following the arrest of Nestor Cervero on January 2015 as a part of the Operation Car Wash (Watts, 2017) and which ultimately led to the arrest of the executives of the Company, including its boss. Furthermore, it was their plea bargain deals which subsequently revealed the details of the contracts the Company had procured by bribing the officials in various countries, including Peru’s ex-president (Gallas, 2019).

Not only Garcia, but the revelations of Odebrecht also exposed the nakedness of many who were then, or had been, at the helm of affairs in Latin America. The scandal included two former Brazilian Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, now serving a 12-year term, and Michel Temor, another former president. In Peru, four ex-presidents are involved in various corruption charges, including Garcia. It is worth-observing that all these four ex-presidents succeeded one each other from 2001 to 2018. In 2018, after two years of rule, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski became the first president to step down for his alleged links with Odebrecht (2019). The case also involves Alejandro Toledo, a president-turned-fugitive, whose 5-year term as head of the state also coincided with the continuing contracts in Peru for the Company that kept swelling the pockets of the then President of Peru (Casey & Zarate, 2017).

However, Garcia’s suicide on one side alludes to his possible involvement in the kickbacks, as alleged by the executives of Odebrecht seeking reduced prison terms. While on the other hand, it raises questions over the judicial system of Peru which allows pre-trial detention of a criminal suspect up to three years. This aspect is certainly more worrying and denies a person his right to be ‘innocent’ until proven guilty (Taj & Aquino, 2019).

“President Garcia made the decision of a free man,’’ Mauricio Mulder, a lawmaker with Garcia’s Apra party, told reporters outside Casimiro Ulloa hospital. “For we Apristas, who are his family, it’s an act of dignity and honor in the face of a fascist, sick, persecution.’’

Odebrecht is a zenith of white-collar crimes and must have its salutary effects for the futures of the Latin American countries where it had the potential of toppling down the governments. These countries should continue the crusade against corruption, with the same conviction they have shown during recent times.