‘Trigger was pulled’: Argentina’s de Kirchner survives gun attack

Incident took place as vice president was getting out of her car outside her Buenos Aires home as gunmen’s pistol failed to fire.

Police standing behind an orange police tape outside the house of Cristina Kirchner after a man pointed a gun at her head.
Police officers stand guard outside the house of Argentina's Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner after she was attacked by an unidentified man with a gun late on Thursday [Agustin Marcarian/Reuters]

A man tried to kill Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Fernández outside her home but the handgun apparently misfired.

President Alberto Fernández, who is not related to the vice president, a former president herself, said the pistol did not discharge when the man tried to fire it on Thursday night.

“A man pointed a firearm at her head and pulled the trigger,” the president said in a national broadcast following the incident. He said the firearm was loaded with five bullets but “didn’t fire even though the trigger was pulled”.

The vice president did not appear to have suffered any injury, and the man was overpowered within seconds as he stood among a crowd of her supporters.

The man was arrested over the incident, which took place outside Kirchner’s home in Buenos Aires, Security Minister Anibal Fernandez said.

Several television channels broadcast footage of the man, who was part of a crowd gathering around Kirchner as she got out of her car, aiming a gun at the politician’s head from close range. Thousands have gathered in recent days to support the former president, who is in the middle of a corruption trial.

Fernandez said police would open an investigation.

A man points a gun at Argentina's Vice-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as she gets out of her car outside her home.
A photo released by the Telam news agency shows a gun pointed at Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as she arrives home [Telam via AFP]

“Now, the situation has to be analysed by our scientific people to evaluate the fingerprints and the capacity and propensity this person had,” he said.

Local media reported the suspect was a Brazilian national and appeared middle-aged.

Javier Farje, a political analyst based in London, told Al Jazeera the assailant had expressed support and sympathies for far-right organisations on his social media accounts.

“One of the [local] media outlets, without confirmation, said he had a swastika tattooed on his arm,” Farje said.

“He’s also allied with many far-right websites, and expressed devotion to all Nordic gods, which is a key element of many far-right militants in Scandinavian countries.”

It is not yet known whether the man – who has an arrest record in Argentina dating back to the 1990s – is part of a network organisation or a lone wolf, Farje added.

Solidarity and support

Government and opposition leaders, as well as politicians from other Latin American countries, expressed solidarity with Kirchner, who has been a divisive political figure and served two terms as president between 2007 and 2015.

According to Farje, the incident has caused shockwaves across Argentina irrespective of political affiliations.

“The shock in Argentinian society is so huge that that might help her ironically to regain some of the popularity she may have lost among people who do not agree with her,” he said.

Kirchner’s successor, Mauricio Macri, said the incident required “immediate and profound clarification by justice system and security forces”.

Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is the frontrunner in that country’s presidential election, scheduled for next month, also expressed his shock.

“Cristina is the victim of a criminal fascist who does not know how to respect differences,” he said. “Thank God she escaped unharmed.”

Kirchner, 69, is accused of fraudulently awarding public works contracts in her stronghold in Patagonia; a verdict is expected by the end of the year.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing that they have said was proven,” Kirchner, a lawyer who succeeded her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, as president, said last week.

Kirchner is currently the Senate president and enjoys parliamentary immunity.

Even if convicted, she would not go to prison unless her sentence was ratified by the country’s Supreme Court, or she loses her Senate seat at the next elections at the end of 2023.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies