Peru Denies Persecution as Former Leader Seeks Asylum

(Bloomberg) -- Peru said it will respect Uruguay’s decision whether to grant asylum to former President Alan Garcia while denying he is a victim of a political persecution in the latest twist of a bribery case that’s roiled Latin American governments.

Garcia requested political asylum at the Uruguayan ambassador’s residence on Saturday in Lima just hours after a court barred the two-term president from leaving the country while he’s being investigated for corruption.

Garcia, who was president of Peru from 1985-1990 and 2006-2011, is the latest Peruvian leader ensnared in the bribery scandal centered on Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which admitted to paying kickbacks to win contracts across the continent. Prosecutors are investigating Garcia and other former officials in connection with a rail contract awarded to the company during his second government. He denies any wrongdoing.

Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra said Monday he spoke to Uruguayan head of state Tabare Vazquez and asked him to consider his government’s view on the asylum request. That position will be laid out in a document to be presented to the Uruguayan government no later than Tuesday, he said.

“Political persecution doesn’t exist in Peru," Vizcarra said. "There’s full rule of law."

Garcia was handed a 18-month travel ban after prosecutors said they received information from Odebrecht about a $100,000 payment to the former president for a speech he gave at a conference in Sao Paulo in 2012. Garcia said he’s given dozens of speeches since leaving office and denies receiving any payments from the firm.

Following the court’s decision on Saturday, Garcia said he accepted the travel ban and said via Twitter he didn’t consider being in the country for 18 months a punishment. A few hours later he entered the ambassador’s residence to make his asylum claim.

Uruguay will evaluate the situation and “adopt the sovereign decision it determines appropriate,” according to a statement on the website of the country’s presidency.

Vizcarra urged Uruguay to make good on a pledge made at a summit in Lima in April, when governments from across the hemisphere promised to combat corruption.

“Corruption doesn’t respect borders and therefore heads of state need to work together to fight it,” he said.

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