Last week, we reported how Alan García faced the music, judicially barred from leaving Peru. No sooner than we had published, on 17 November he staged his flight to the Uruguayan embassy in Lima where he officially applied for political asylum.
As of publication date this week, it still remained unclear whether the Uruguayan government would heed his application. The Peruvian authorities had dispatched documentation during the course of the week that disputed García’s claim that he was the victim of political persecution; President Vizcarra had also spoken to Uruguay’s President Tabaré Vásquez, presumably to the same end.
On 23 November, a group of APRA congressmen were packing their bags for Montevideo with a view to supporting García’s claim in person. They followed hard on the heels of a group from Peru’s Frente Amplio with a rather different message.
It was widely assumed that García would have contacted the Uruguayan government beforehand to ensure that he was given an official welcome. This could make any rejection of asylum an embarrassing U-turn.
However, beyond APRA and a few Fujimoristas, few Peruvians believe that García is being hounded politically. Most, by contrast, think that he should pay the price for any involvement in the Odebrecht saga.
What is remarkable here is the shift in the stance of the Peruvian judiciary, with a judge accepting the argument of José Domingo Pérez, the public prosecutor on the Lava Jato cases, that García should be prevented from leaving Peru for fear that he would try to evade justice. Clearly not all those within the judicial branch and the fiscalía (including its head, Gonzalo Chávarry) agree. APRA, and García personally, have long exercised strong influence over the judiciary. That seems to be in shorter supply now.
It is also unclear how Vizcarra will repond if the Uruguayan authorities agree to granting García asylum. He might possibly decide to deny him safe conduct out of the country on the basis of the judge’s decision that he should remain pending investigation. At the very least, García’s move to the embassy provided justification for Pérez’s fears.
In 1949, Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre, the founder and leader of APRA (up until his death in 1979) took refuge in the Colombian embassy in Lima. The then Odría dictatorship refused him a safe conduct, and Haya remained holed up in the embassy for five years until he was eventually allowed to leave for Mexico. Would García want to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor (and political godfather)?
Meanwhile the political balance is moving ever further away from the two main opposition parties whose leaders are either in jail (Keiko Fujimori) or face the risk of it (Alan García) in favour of Vizcarra whose referendums are but two weeks away.
Postscript. The Financial Times reports that in the next few weeks, the public prosecutor’s office will sign an agreement with Odebrecht that could lead to the resumption of the company’s operations in Peru.