Police tape restricts access to the home of the Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernadez de Kirchner in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sept. 1. A man was arrested Thursday after trying to shoot de Kirchner when a vigil was being held in her support. Photo by Juan Ignacio Roncoroni/EPA-EFE
Sept. 2 (UPI) — Police in Argentina detained a gunman Thursday night after he attempted to shoot Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the vice president of the South American country, at point-blank range, in what President Alberto Fernandez said is the “most serious event” to occur in the country since it regained democracy nearly 40 years ago.
In an address to the public, Fernandez said the suspect had attempted to assassinate Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner outside her Buenos Aires home at about 9 p.m. Thursday but failed as the gun didn’t fire despite its trigger having been pulled.
“Cristina remains alive because, for a reason not yet technically confirmed, the weapon that had five bullets did not fire despite having been triggered,” he said.
Video of incident posted to Twitter by Argentina’s official Télam news agency shows Fernandez de Kirchner, a former two-time president, greeting a crowd outside her home when a hand holding a pistol juts out toward her, inches from her face. The man is then seen swarmed by security and seemingly bystanders as the vice president walks away unharmed.
Federal police have identified the suspected gunman as 35-year-old Brazilian Fernando Andre Sabag Montiel, Telam reported.
In his televised address, the president said the attack calls for “the strongest repudiation” of all Argentines because “these events affect our democracy.”
“We are obliged to recover the democratic coexistence that has been broken by the hate speech that has spread from different political, judicial and media spaces of Argentine society.” he said. “We can disagree, we can have deep disagreements, but in a democratic society hate speech cannot take place because it breeds violence and there is no possibility of violence coexisting with democracy.”
“Argentina cannot lose another minute,” he continued. “There is no time. It is necessary to banish violence and hatred from political and media discourse and from our life in society.”
The incident occurred as Fernandez de Kirchner, a polarizing leftist politician who has been in the political spotlight for decades, is being tried on corruption charges that stem from her time as president, which has attracted supporters to her home nightly and calls for her arrest and punishment from rivals.
Her Todos political party issued a statement following the incident saying, “[w]e are facing one of the most serious episodes in our history.”
“We call for reflection by the political, media and judicial sectors that install hate speech and promote violence,” it said. “The consequences are in sight and put our democracy at risk.”
The president also said during his address that he has spoken with the judge investigating the incident and called on them to quickly collect the facts while also asking to “ensure the life of the defendant who is in custody.”
He also declared Friday a national holiday “so that, in peace and harmony, the Argentine people can express themselves in defense of life, democracy and in solidarity with our vice president.”
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