Cristina Fernández de Kirchner: Argentines rally after botched assassination attempt

·3 min read
Thousands of people gathered at Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires on Friday to protest against the attack
Huge crowds of people gathered at Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires on Friday to protest against the attack

Thousands of supporters of Argentina's vice-president have rallied to denounce political violence, after she narrowly survived an assassination attempt.

"We are all Cristina," chanted crowds in the capital Buenos Aires, referring to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

The 69-year-old escaped unharmed on Thursday evening after a gunman's weapon jammed as he aimed at her.

Ms Fernández de Kirchner has not spoken publicly about it yet, but waved to supporters as she left home on Friday.

Argentina's President Alberto Fernández declared Friday a national holiday to allow Argentines time to "express themselves in defence of life, democracy and in solidarity with the vice-president".

Hundreds of thousands of flag waving supporters descended on the capital's historic Plaza de Mayo, next to the presidential offices.

"Thank God and the Virgin that the bullet didn't come out," 58-year-old teacher Santiago Bianco told Reuters news agency.

"For us, the possibility that something like that could happen to Cristina is unthinkable," said Claudia, 37, who declined to provide her surname. "We were saved last night from something terrible that we can't even comprehend," she added.

A career politician and a divisive figure, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was Argentina's president from 2007 to 2015, and its first lady for four years before that. She has been the vice president since 2019.

Footage shows the moment she found herself face-to-face with the loaded weapon.

Ms Fernández de Kirchner was outside her home in Buenos Aires, surrounded by a mob of supporters who back her in her fight against corruption charges.

As she greets them, the gun can be seen emerging from the crowd. She initially appears confused by what is going on, ducking down to retrieve an object dropped on the floor.

Video's from other angles show people in the crowd appearing to try to block her from the suspected gunman, who came within inches of the politician.

President Fernández has revealed the gun was loaded with five bullets, but failed to fire when triggered.

Police named the suspect as 35-year-old Fernando Andrés Sabag Montiel, Brazilian-born but with an Argentine mother, who has lived in Argentina since he came to the country as a child in 1993. He had previously been arrested in 2021 while carrying a 35cm knife.

Pictures of him taken from his social media posts and published on Argentine news websites depicted him with tattoos associated with neo-Nazi groups.

After searching his apartment, police seized two boxes containing 100 bullets, according to investigators quoted by La Nación newspaper.

Authorities are working to establish a motive for the attack on the left-leaning politician.

It took place against a backdrop of a severe economic slump driven by sky-high inflation - it hit 71% in July - and the disintegrating value of the peso currency.

The Vice President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, greets her supporters as she leaves her residence escorted by security agents in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 02 September 2022.
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner waves to supporters as she leaves her home on Friday, escorted by security agents

President Fernández said the attempt on Ms Fernández de Kirchner's life was one of the "most serious" incidents since the country returned to democracy in 1983.

Crowds of people have been gathering outside her home in Buenos Aires for the past few nights in a show of support, as she fights charges of defrauding the state and being involved in a scheme to divert public funds while she was president.

If convicted at trial, prosecutors have asked that she face 12 years in prison and a lifetime ban from politics.

However, Ms Fernández de Kirchner is the Senate president and so enjoys parliamentary immunity. She would not be imprisoned unless her sentence was ratified by the country's Supreme Court, or she loses her Senate seat at the next elections at the end of 2023.

Ms Fernández de Kirchner has faced numerous other corruption trials following her time as president. The verdict of this trial is expected to take some months.