Argentina’s Vice President Unharmed After Assassination Attempt

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An assassination attempt on Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina failed on Thursday night as a man pointed a pistol at her head and tried to pull the trigger, but the gun did not go off, according to video footage and a statement from Argentina’s president.

Mrs. Kirchner was unharmed.

“Cristina is still alive because, for reasons that have not been confirmed technically, the weapon, which was loaded with five bullets, did not fire,” President Alberto Fernández said late Thursday in an address to the nation. “This is the most serious event since we recovered our democracy.”

The federal police arrested Fernando Andres Sabag Montiel, 35, a Brazilian man living in Argentina, in connection with the attack, according to the Buenos Aires police.

Mrs. Kirchner, a leftist former president who is the most prominent leader in Argentina, with three decades in the public eye, is a deeply polarizing figure and is on trial on corruption charges. Her supporters have rallied outside her home in Buenos Aires since last week, sometimes clashing with the police.

Just after 9 p.m. on Thursday, as Mrs. Kirchner was getting out of her vehicle outside her home, where a large crowd had gathered, a man quickly approached and pointed a gun inches from her face, according to video footage and the authorities. A clicking sound heard in videos suggested that the man then tried to pull the trigger.

Mrs. Kirchner crouched down, and the man was pulled away.

Five people chased a man away from the scene and said he had tried to kill Mrs. Kirchner, according to the Buenos Aires police. The federal police then arrested Mr. Montiel and found a pistol near the scene, the Buenos Aires police said.

Mr. Fernández declared Friday a national holiday so Argentines could “defend life and democracy in solidarity with our vice president.”

“The outcry, horror and repudiation that this event generates in us should become a permanent commitment to eradicate hate and violence from our democratic lives,” he said.

Members of Argentina’s Congress said they had formed a commission to investigate the episode.

Mrs. Kirchner, 69, was Argentina’s president from 2007 to 2015 and the first lady from 2003 to 2007, when her husband, Néstor Kirchner, was president. Their political power was so strong in Argentina that it gave rise to Kirchnerism, a left-wing movement that remains one of the most powerful political forces in the country.

In 2019, she returned to the Casa Rosada, Argentina’s presidential offices, after masterminding a political ticket in which she would run for vice president and Mr. Fernández would seek the presidency. Mr. Fernández is not expected to run for re-election next year because of dismal approval ratings amid the spiraling inflation of Argentina’s economy.

Mrs. Kirchner, despite being reviled by the right in Argentina, is still adored by a large portion of the country. Many political analysts have been speculating that Mrs. Kirchner could try to return to the presidency next year.

But she is also dealing with a corruption trial that is in its final stages and could conclude in December. She faces accusations that she helped direct state funds for public roadwork projects to a company owned by a family friend. Prosecutors last month said they were seeking a 12-year prison sentence for Mrs. Kirchner and a ban on holding public office. However, even if convicted, she would most likely avoid those punishments for years as appeals played out.

That corruption case has caused a new swirl of controversy around Mrs. Kirchner. Many on the right in Argentina have called for her to be jailed, and last week, one opposition lawmaker said that her corruption cases justified bringing back the death penalty.

Her supporters have rallied in her defense, saying she is a victim of political persecution. For nearly two weeks, supporters have gathered outside her home in an affluent neighborhood near downtown Buenos Aires. On Saturday, thousands took to the streets there, leading to confrontations with police. Mrs. Kirchner eventually urged her supporters to go home that night.

She has faced several other judicial battles, and has emerged victorious in some of them.

Last year, a court dismissed charges against her over accusations that she conspired to cover up Iran’s purported role in the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 85 people. The accusations against Mrs. Kirchner were first made in 2015 by a prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, who was found dead of a gunshot wound in his apartment days later. His death was never solved, and the matter has been a source of frenzied speculation and political infighting ever since.

The Buenos Aires police said they had come into contact with Mr. Montiel at least once before, in March 2021, when he was sitting in a parked car without a license plate. The police said that when he went to retrieve documents from the glove box, a knife fell out, which the police seized.

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