Argentina detained a man who tried to shoot Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Thursday evening, President Alberto Fernández said, in an attempted attack he called the “most serious incident to happen since we recovered democracy.”
A 35-year-old Brazilian man was taken into custody, according to Argentina’s security minister. In a video of the episode posted by a television station on social media, a click is heard as the firearm is brandished just inches from the vice president’s face.
“We are facing an event that has an extreme institutional and human seriousness. Our vice president has been attacked,” Fernández said in a midnight national address.
Kirchner, a left-wing populist, previously served as the nation’s president from 2007 to 2015, and was first lady from 2003 to 2007. The incident occurred near her residence, where dozens had gathered to support the vice president, who is facing trial on corruption charges.
“This was an assassination attempt,” the vice president’s lawyer, Gregorio Dalbón, wrote on Twitter, urging the Argentine justice system to respond swiftly. “Hate and violence end badly.”
“This grave incident demands immediate and profound clarification by the justice system and security forces,” tweeted Mauricio Macri, a right-wing former president, after the attack.
Argentina’s legislature, which is controlled by allies of Kirchner, plans to create a special committee to investigate the attack.
Kirchner, a divisive figure in Argentina’s political scene, faces up to 12 years in prison for her alleged involvement in a corruption scheme involving public contracts. She has denied involvement and called the trial an instance of “political persecution.”
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Axel Kicillof, a Kirchner ally and governor of Buenos Aires province, described the attack on Twitter as “one of the worst episodes of our history.
“Those who insist on persecuting, inciting violence, and even calling for the death penalty must stop now. You cannot continue to promote hatred and violence,” he wrote.
“All my solidarity to my friend Cristina Kirchner, a victim of a fascist criminal who did not know how to respect differences and diversity,” tweeted Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose term as Brazilian president overlapped with Kirchner’s stint as Argentina’s top leader. “Cristina is a woman who deserves the respect of any democrat in the world. Thank God she escaped unharmed.”
There is no immediate evidence that the alleged attacker was politically motivated. Fernández, the president, asked the judge investigating the case to ensure the safety of the alleged attacker while in custody.
Argentina is facing one of the world’s most severe inflation crises, with interest rates of around 70 percent. The country has cycled through three economy ministers since July.
A rift on how to deal with the economic crisis has divided Kirchner and the president. Kirchner has championed a universal basic income, while Fernández has appointed economic policymakers who lean toward austerity.
Kirchner’s late husband and presidential predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, helped navigate Argentina out of economic collapse. Together they built an economic movement defined by heavy-handed economic intervention and growth, but her legacy was marred by accusations of graft.