Buenos Aires: A man attempted to shoot Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner near her home in Buenos Aires on Thursday, a shocking incident that prompted a wave of sympathy from Latin American leaders.
“Cristina remains alive, because for a reason that has not yet been technically confirmed, the gun which contained five bullets did not fire despite the trigger having been pulled,” Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez said in an address to the nation.
“This is the most serious event that has happened since we restored democracy” in 1983, Fernandez said.
Footage of the incident showed the man pointing a handgun at close range at Kirchner, who was the country’s leader from 2007 to 2015 and is now facing corruption charges.
The incident took place in Buenos Aires’ upscale Recoleta neighborhood.
“I saw this arm come up over my shoulder behind me with a gun, and with people around me, he was subdued,” a supporter of Kirchner, who did not give his name, told AFP.
Security Minister Anibal Fernandez said a suspect had been arrested on Thursday night but investigators still needed to examine the crime scene and circumstances surrounding the incident.
Local media reported that the suspect was a 35-year-old Brazilian national.
President Fernandez declared Friday a public holiday to allow people to “express themselves in defense of the life of democracy and in solidarity with our vice president.”
Several well-known Latin American politicians voiced support for Kirchner, 69, after the failed attack.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a strong Kirchner ally, tweeted his support Thursday night.
“We send our solidarity to Vice President Cristina Kirchner in the face of the attack against her life,” he wrote.
“We strenuously reject this act that sought to destabilize the peace of the brotherly Argentine people. The great homeland is with you, comrade!”
Chile’s President Gabriel Boric also tweeted out support to Kirchner and the Argentine people.
“The assassination attempt… deserves the repudiation and condemnation of the entire continent,” he said. “The path will always be the debate of ideas and dialogue, never weapons or violence.”
Bolivian President Luis Arce also expressed his support for Kirchner.
Within the country, opposition party Together for Change condemned the attempted attack on Kirchner and called for a full investigation.
“My absolute repudiation of the attack suffered by Cristina Kirchner, who fortunately was not injured,” tweeted opposition leader Mauricio Macri, who was president after Kirchner.
“This very serious act requires an immediate and deep investigation by prosecutors and security forces.”
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s former president now locked in a fierce election battle, also slammed Kirchner’s attacker as “a fascist criminal who does not know how to respect differences and diversity.”
Kirchner, a lawyer by training who succeeded her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, as president, stands accused of fraudulently awarding public works contracts in her political stronghold of Patagonia.
Government prosecutors have accused her of defrauding the state out of an estimated $1 billion and are seeking a prison sentence of 12 years and a lifetime ban from politics.
Hundreds of activists have gathered in recent days in front of her home to protest the claims.
“Nothing, absolutely nothing that they have said was proven,” Kirchner said last week.
The verdict in her case is expected at the end of the year.
She is president of the country’s Senate and enjoys parliamentary immunity, granting her some legal protection.
Even if convicted she would not go to prison unless her sentence was ratified by the country’s Supreme Court, or if she loses her Senate seat at the next elections at the end of 2023.