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Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner: Argentina vice-president narrowly avoids assassin

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By Alex Binley & Matt Murphy

BBC News

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner gives a speech.Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was president of Argentina from 2007 to 2015.

Argentine’s vice-president has narrowly avoided assassination after a gunman’s weapon jammed as he aimed at her.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was greeting supporters outside her home when a man emerged from the crowd and pointed a handgun in her face.

President Alberto Fernandez said the gun was loaded with five bullets but failed to fire when triggered.

Ms De Kirchner is in the midst of a corruption trial and was returning from court. She denies the charges.

Police said the shooter, who local media identified as a 35-year-old Brazilian man, has been taken into custody. They are attempting to establish a motive for the attack.

Addressing the nation late on Thursday night, Mr Fernandez condemned the attacker and said the attempt on Ms De Kirchner’s life was one of the “most serious” incidents since the country returned to democracy in 1983.

“We can disagree, we can have deep disagreements, but hate speech cannot take place because it breeds violence and there is no chance of violence coexisting with democracy,” Mr Fernandez said.

He also declared a national holiday on Friday to allow Argentines time to “express themselves in defence of life, democracy and in solidarity with our vice president”.

Footage shared on local media showed the man aiming a gun inches away from her head and appearing to attempt a shot. She then lowers her head but no shots were fired.

In another video posted on social media, people in the crowd appear to try to block Ms de Kirchner from the suspected gunman.

Argentina’s economy minister, Sergio Massa, called the attempted shooting an “attempted assassination”.

“When hate and violence prevail over debate, societies are destroyed and situations like these arise: attempted assassination,” he said in a tweet.

A police spokesperson earlier told Reuters news agency that a weapon was found a few metres from the scene after the man had been arrested.

In recent days, hundreds of protesters have gathered in support outside the 69-year-old’s home in the capital while the trial is under way.

Ms de Kirchner is accused of defrauding the state and being involved in a scheme to divert public funds while she was president between 2007 and 2015.

If convicted at trial, prosecutors have asked that the ex-president face 12 years in prison and a lifetime ban from politics.

However, Ms de Kirchner is the Senate president and so enjoys parliamentary immunity. She would not be imprisoned 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.

Ms Kirchner has faced numerous other corruption trials following her time as president. The verdict of this trial is expected to take some months.

Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Police officers stand guard as forensics work is carried out following the attempted shooting.

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