Former Peruvian president Alan García shot himself dead on Wednesday after police arrived at his house to arrest him as part of a corruption investigation.
The government said that when officers arrived at his home, García withdrew to a closed room to phone his lawyer. They heard a gunshot minutes later, broke down the door and found the former president with a wound to the head.
They rushed him to hospital where he underwent surgery. He died a few hours later.
President Martin Vizcarra confirmed the news on Twitter, sending his condolences to García’s family and loved ones.
García, 69, was arguably Peru’s best-known politician. Standing 6 foot 2 inches tall and heftily built, he served twice as president, from 1985 to 1990 and then again from 2006 to 2011.
After leaving office he became ensnared in the Odebrecht corruption scandal, which started in Brazil but spread throughout Latin America, implicating hundreds of politicians and business leaders.
Peruvian prosecutors said García took bribes from the Brazilian construction company during his second term in office, allegations he denied.
In November, he sought refuge in the Uruguayan embassy in Lima and requested asylum. His bid was rejected, and he returned home.
As news of the shooting spread, supporters of the former president and his political party Apra gathered at the hospital entrance to await news. There were chaotic scenes outside and when the death was confirmed some activists fought with the police, who used water cannon against them.
Known for his seductive oratory, García was dubbed “Latin America’s Kennedy” when he first swept to power in 1985 at the age of 36.
His first term in office was marked by economic disaster, hyperinflation, social conflict and the relentless rise of the Maoist guerrilla movement Shining Path. Human rights campaigners say he authorised the armed forces to carry out extrajudicial killings, allegations that were never proved.
In the 1990s García went into exile in Colombia and France before returning for a far more successful second term, when mineral-rich Peru rode the commodities boom and grew faster than any other country in the region.
His death comes days after another Peruvian ex-president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, was arrested as part of the same investigation. On Tuesday night, the 80-year-old was moved from preventive custody to hospital due to high blood pressure, and on Wednesday he was placed in intensive care.
In all, the past five Peruvian presidents have either served jail time for corruption or are — or were — under investigation for it.
They are García, Mr Kuczynski, Alberto Fujimori, Alejandro Toledo and Ollanta Humala who, between them, ruled Peru for 33 consecutive years until last year.
Mr Toledo, in office from 2001 to 2006, is a fugitive in the US, accused of taking $20m from Odebrecht. Mr Humala, whose term ran from 2011 to 2016, is awaiting trial in Lima. Mr Fujimori was pardoned in 2017 after serving time in jail but has since been returned to prison to continue his sentence.
His daughter, opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, has also been accused of taking cash from Odebrecht.
All say they are innocent victims of a judicial witch-hunt.
Mr Vizcarra, who took over the presidency a year ago, has made cleaning the country of corruption a central pillar of his government.