Tens of thousands took to the streets Argentina To protest political violence and show support for Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the day after she survived what appeared to be a failed assassination attempt.
Political leaders around the world and Pope Francis condemned the attack, as protesters flooded cities across the country in solidarity with a political leader, such as Juan and Evita Perón, who dominates Argentina’s political scene.
The attack was broadcast live late Thursday, with TV cameras capturing a man pushing through a crowd of supporters and raising a gun to Fernandez de Kirchner’s face.
The striker was soon arrested and nicknamed Fernando Andres Sapag-Montel, a 35-year-old Brazilian national who has lived in Argentina since 1998.
Police did not speculate on the motive of the attack, which comes against a backdrop of political tensions and economic crisis, but President Alberto Fernandez described it as the most serious incident in Argentina since the country returned to democracy in 1983.
Governments across the hemisphere denounced the assassination attempt, while Buenos Aires-born Francis said: “I pray that social harmony and respect for democratic values prevail in our beloved Argentina, against all kinds of violence and aggression.”
On Friday, Avenida de Mayo downtown Buenos Aires was filled with protesters waving light blue and white Argentine flags and huge banners representing the country’s powerful social movements.
Some framed portraits of Fernandez de Kirchner wearing the presidential sash. In the background, a huge banner hung over her face next to a picture of Eva Peron in the Ministry of Social Development building.
The sounds of brass bands and drums filled the air as protesters chanted, “If they touch Christina, what a mess we’re going to make!”
Juan Pablo Fort Flanagan, a 51-year-old elementary school teacher, described the assassination attempt as a “fascist attack.”
He said, “What happened yesterday is a disgrace to our democratic institutions.” “You can think like her or you can’t think like her, but you must respect democracy.”
Peronist leaders said the assailant may have been encouraged by the increasing level of violent rhetoric against Fernandez de Kirchner, a polarizing figure facing possible corruption charges.
“It should be clear that this is by no means an isolated incident by a mentally unbalanced person,” said Axel Kiselov, governor of Buenos Aires. “It happened in the context of [of increasing political confrontation] And that is where we have to move.”
In central Buenos Aires, Graciela Jacob, 81, said she was walking on behalf of a generation decimated by the country’s military dictatorship.
“First of all, I was shocked [when I heard about the attack]. “Then he was angry and afraid that it was possible,” Jacob said. Like many others, she blamed the attack on the volatile political climate stoked by opposition politicians and the press.
Tango singer, Eduardo Torres, 49, said: “We knew something like this could happen. There is a very tense social atmosphere.”
Torres listed the coronavirus pandemic, hyperinflation and a cost-of-living crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine as factors in the country’s growing political polarization.
All this has generated a kind of social violence and division [between left and right] “I got much bigger,” he said.
Torres added that he considers Cristina the most important Argentine politician of the past 30 years. “I think she’s the only one who embodies people’s hope.”
But while Fernandez de Kirchner has many of these supporters, she has also become the epicenter of acrimonious hatred on the part of the political right.
In March, a group of protesters attacked the vice president’s Senate office, causing extensive damage, while opposition activists often chant “Death to Christina” during rallies.
Last week, opposition lawmaker Francisco Sanchez – an admirer of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro – sparked outrage when he called for Fernandez de Kirchner to be executed after accusing her of corruption.
This type of crime should be considered treason. “They deserve the death penalty,” he said on Twitter on August 22.
“It’s a hate message,” said TV host Daniel Navarro, who has collected a number of these death signals for a segment on his show Amanecer Friday morning.
“Many of these statements and tweets are talking about death, murder, that you should die, it’s an excessive level of hate.”
The attack also sent shockwaves through neighboring Brazil, which is just a month away from a presidential election in which Bolsonaro will face his arch-rival, former leftist president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.
In 2018, Bolsonaro called on his supporters to “shoot machine fire” at their left-wing opponents, and Tensions have risen sharply in recent weeks.
Bolsonaro supporters attacked Lula twice, throwing feces, urine and an improvised explosive device at the former president’s supporters, and A senior Labor Party official was shot dead.
On Friday, Lula warned that politicians around the world must be prepared to confront a climate of violence fueled by populist figures.
“I think all of us politicians should be aware of the violence that those who don’t know how to live in a democratic way provoke,” he said.