Buenos Aires — A man attempted to shoot Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner near her home in Buenos Aires on Thursday, a shocking incident sparked a wave of sympathy from Latin American leaders.
“Cristina is alive because, for reasons yet to be technically verified, the gun with five bullets in it did not fire despite pulling the trigger,” Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said in a speech to the nation.
“This is the most serious incident to occur since 1983, when we restored democracy,” said Fernandez.
Video of the incident showed the man pointing a gun at Kirchner’s head at close range.
Kirchner was the country’s leader from 2007 to 2015 and now faces corruption charges.
The incident occurred in the upscale Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires.
“I saw this arm go up to my shoulder with a gun behind me and was subdued with people around me,” an anonymous supporter of Kirchner told AFP.
Security Minister Hannibal Fernandez said a suspect was arrested on Thursday night, but investigators must examine the scene and the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Local media reported that the suspect was a 35-year-old Brazilian citizen.
President Fernandez declared Friday a public holiday to allow people to “defend the life of democracy and express themselves in solidarity with our vice president.”
Several prominent Latin American politicians have expressed their support for Kirchner, 69, after the failed attack.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a strong Kirchner ally, tweeted his support, along with a clip showing the attempted attack on Thursday night.
“We send our solidarity to Vice President Cristina Kirchner in the face of the attack on her life,” she wrote. “We strongly reject this action that seeks to disrupt the peace of the brotherly Argentine people. The great homeland is with you, comrade!”
Chilean President Gabriel Boric also tweeted his support for Kirchner and the people of Argentina.
“The attempted assassination … deserves to be rejected and condemned by the entire continent,” he said. “The road will always be discussion of ideas and dialogue, never guns or violence.”
Bolivian President Luis Arce also expressed his support for Kirchner.
Domestically, the opposition party Together for Change condemned the attempted attack on Kirchner and called for a full investigation.
“I absolutely reject the attack on Cristina Kirchner, who fortunately was not injured,” said opposition leader Mauricio Macri, who became president after Kirchner. “This very serious action requires an urgent and deep investigation by prosecutors and security forces.”
Luiz Inácio Lula da SilvaBrazil’s former president is now locked in a fierce election battle, slamming Kirchner’s aggressor as “a fascist criminal who doesn’t know how to respect difference and diversity.”
A trained lawyer who replaced her late husband Nestor Kirchner as president, Kirchner is accused of fraudulently placing public works contracts in her political stronghold, Patagonia.
Government prosecutors have accused him of defrauding the state of an estimated $1 billion and are seeking 12 years in prison and a life sentence from politics.
In recent days, hundreds of activists gathered outside his house to protest the allegations.
“Nothing, absolutely nothing they say has been proven,” Kirchner said last week.
A verdict in his case is expected by the end of the year.
He is the head of the country’s Senate and enjoys parliamentary immunity, which gives him some legal protection. Even if he is convicted, he will not go to jail unless his sentence is upheld by the country’s Supreme Court or he loses his Senate seat in the next elections, held at the end of 2023.
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