Man points handgun in face of Argentina’s vice president in ‘attempted assassination’

World

A man has pointed a loaded handgun in the face of Argentina’s vice president in what is being described as an attempted assassination.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was threatened outside her home in Buenos Aires on Thursday night.

The trigger was pulled but no shots were fired – indicating the weapon jammed – before the attacker was overpowered and arrested.

Video from the scene broadcast on local television channels shows the vice president exiting her vehicle surrounded by supporters outside her home, in the upscale Recoleta area of the capital.

The alleged gunman, identified as Brazilian national Fernando Andre Sabag Montiel, does not have a criminal record, the Argentinian Security Ministry said.

He appears to extend his hand holding what has been confirmed as a .32-calibre Bersa semi-automatic pistol, before former president Ms Fernandez is seen raising her hand to her face and ducking for cover.

The suspect was overpowered within seconds by security officials.

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Argentina’s president, Alberto Fernandez, said the gun was loaded with five bullets.

“A man pointed a firearm at her head and pulled the trigger,” he said in a national broadcast.

The weapon “didn’t fire even though the trigger was pulled,” Mr Fernandez added.

Who is Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner?

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was the first female president of Argentina.

She took office from her husband Nestor Kirchner after he stepped down in 2007. She was then re-elected with a huge majority in 2011 following his death in 2010.

The couple met at law school in Buenos Aires and moved to Patagonia after finishing their studies.

They simultaneously rose through the political ranks there, with Mr Kirchner elected governor of Santa Cruz in the early 1990s, with his wife serving as his deputy.

Ms Fernandez de Kirchner later became senator of Buenos Aires, while her husband served as president between 2003 and 2007.

The couple’s focus on human rights, increasing social spending, and improving the lives of low-income families became known as ‘Kirchnerismo’.

Under her leadership, Argentina renewed contracts with the International Monetary Fund after years of hostility and became the first country in Latin America to legalise same-sex marriage.

A vocal advocate of returning the Falkland Islands to Argentina, Ms Fernandez de Kirchner wrote to then-prime minister David Cameron in 2013, claiming British rule there was the continuation of oppressive colonialism.

Now vice president to Alberto Fernandez, for the last three years she has been the subject of a corruption trial.

While she vehemently denies all charges and has described it as a “media judicial firing squad”, she is one of 13 accused of awarding public contracts to a friend while she and her husband lived in Patagonia.

Over a 12-year period, prosecutors claim 51 contracts were awarded to companies owned by Lazaro Baez. The trial is expected to last until next year.

The president – who is not related to his deputy – said the attack was “the most serious incident since we recovered democracy” in 1983 after a military dictatorship.

Economy minister Sergio Massa said: “When hate and violence are imposed over the debate of ideas, societies are destroyed and generate situations like the one seen today: an assassination attempt.”

The suspect was arrested nearby and a weapon was found a few metres from the scene, according to a police spokesman.

Hundreds of protesters have gathered in recent days to support the former president, who is in the midst of a corruption trial.

She vehemently denies allegations, said to have happened during her 2007 – 2015 presidency.

The president declared Friday a holiday “so the Argentine people can, in peace and harmony, express itself in defence of life, democracy and in solidarity with our vice president.”

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