South America is a funny old continent. Once the home of caudillos and colonels in power, it now houses a resurgent conservative movement and a political culture that goes after corruption with a vengeance. That swamp draining can take the form of a bullet to the skull. Cue the late Alan Garcia.
Sadly, yesterday Mr. Garcia shot himself as the police were closing in to arrest him in a bribery scandal that is engulfing several South American countries. When they got to his house, in the manner of General Jack Ripper, he locked himself in the bathroom and turned out his own lights. Rushed to a hospital by the police, he succumbed not long afterwards.
Garcia served two terms as Peruvian president. First term he was a Bolshie hot mess, bumbling so badly the primarily llama herding economy (My ancestry is Colombian, ergo I get to make Peruvian jokes. Deal with it.) took a short walk off a cliff and Shining Path Maoist guerillas made a move to topple the government. They failed but Garcia gained a rep for rash incompetence.
He came back to office several years later and ruled more conservatively, somewhat rescuing his reputation. However, like so many leftists, at heart he remained a middle class pseudo-intellectual on the make.
As such, when he got close to the monied class in his second term, he had his paw out. It was suitably greased by many interests. One of them, Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction titan, last year fessed up to giving $800 million in bribes to various regional politicians in exchange for getting lucrative contracts across the continent. Mr. Garcia was on that list.
When that news came out he tried to pull an Assange and hightailed it to the Uruguayan Embassy in Lima, where he asked for asylum. They said no dice and he came back home, no doubt excruciatingly waiting for the eventual doorbell.
All across the continent, that doorbell has been ringing.
When it finally happened to Garcia yesterday he must have seen the inevitable humiliation followed by prison. He knew how far he would fall. The shame and regret must have been overwhelming. One recalls Phaethon and can have pity for the poor devil.
But it’s not just Peru.
The Brazilians jailed one recent lefty president who was involved with Odebrecht and threw another out of office. Argentina did an about-face after Kirchner, who has been indicted on more than one charge. In Ecuador a former veep is in jail for Odebrecht. The Peruvians themselves have one former president in jail for human rights abuses, another last year chased from office and now detained for bribery in the case, another who escaped to the U.S. before being charged, and another detained but released.
The rise of conservatives like Macri in Argentina and Bolsonaro in Brazil is directly related to these developments, as Latin American voters wake up to the corruption inherent in leftism and react strongly against it in a Newtonian Third Law fashion. Let’s hope we North Americans, when appropriate, follow the example.