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A man was arrested Thursday night after pointing a point-blank gun at Argentina’s politically powerful vice president Cristina Fernández, and President Alberto Fernández said the assassination attempt failed because the gun did not fire.
“A man pointed a gun to her head and pulled the trigger,” the president said on a national broadcast.
He called it “the worst incident since we got democracy back” in 1983 and urged political leaders and society at large to repudiate the incident.
Supporters of the vice president have gathered in the streets surrounding his home since last week, when a prosecutor called for a 12-year sentence for Fernández and a lifetime ban on holding public office as part of an alleged corruption case. public during his 2007-2015 presidency. Fernández, who is not related to the current president, has denied all allegations.
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The president spoke shortly after video of the scene broadcast on local television channels showing Fernández stepping out of his vehicle surrounded by supporters outside his home when a man could be seen reaching out with what appeared to be a gun.
The vice president ducked as supporters surrounding the person appeared shocked by what was happening amidst the hustle and bustle in the Recoleta neighborhood of the Argentine capital.
The man, whose identity has not been released by the authorities, was arrested seconds after the incident.
The president said the firearm had five bullets “and did not fire even though the trigger was pulled”.
There was no indication that the vice president had suffered any damage. His whereabouts were unknown.
“A person who was identified by those close to him who had a gun was arrested by (the vice president’s) security staff,” Security Minister Aníbal Fernández told local cable news channel C5N.
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The minister said he wanted to be careful in giving details until the investigation knows more.
An unverified video posted on social media shows that the gun almost touched Fernández’s face.
The state-run Télam news agency identified the alleged gunman as Fernando Andrés Zabak, a Brazilian citizen. Officials had not confirmed the information.
Government officials were quick to describe the incident as an assassination attempt.
“When hatred and violence impose themselves on the debate of ideas, societies are destroyed and generate situations like the one we see today: an attempted murder,” said the Minister of Economy Sergio Massa.
The ministers of the government of President Alberto Fernández have issued a press release in which they say they “strongly condemn the attempted murder” of the vice president. “What happened tonight is extremely serious and threatens democracy, institutions and the rule of law”, reads the statement.
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Former President Mauricio Macri also repudiated the attack. “This very serious event requires immediate and profound clarification by the judiciary and the security forces,” Macri wrote on Twitter.
Patricia Bullrich, president of the opposition Republican Proposal party, criticized the president, saying he is “playing with fire” because “instead of seriously investigating a serious incident, he accuses the opposition and the press, decreeing a national holiday to mobilize activists “.
Tension has increased in the upper-class neighborhood of Recoleta since the weekend, when supporters of the vice president clashed with police in the streets surrounding his apartment in an attempt by law enforcement to clear the area. As a result of the clashes, what had been a strong police presence around the vice president’s apartment was reduced.
When Fernández leaves his apartment around noon every day, he greets supporters and signs autographs before getting into his vehicle to go to the Senate. He repeats the same routine every night.
In the aftermath of the incident, the vice president’s allies promptly pointed the finger at the opposition for what they say is a hateful speech promoting violence. In recent days, several key officials said opposition leaders were looking for a fatality.
“This is a historic event in Argentina that has to be a before and after,” said Buenos Aires governor Axel Kicillof.
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Regional leaders also condemned the attack.
“We send our solidarity to the vice president in this attack on his life,” said on Twitter the president of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro.
Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, candidate in that nation’s presidential elections next month, also expressed solidarity with Fernández, calling her “the victim of a fascist criminal who does not know how to respect differences and diversity”.