Sunday September 04, 2022

Bid on Argentinian VP causes flutter

Bid on Argentinian VP causes flutter

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

The bizarre assassination attempt on Argentinian Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Thursday at her Buenos Aires home has evoked a huge response from her supporters on Friday.

The man who tried to fire the pistol pointed at her head has been identified as 35-year-old Brazilian, Fernando Andres Sabag Montiel, but due to a technical snag the pistol did not work though he unsuccessfully pulled the trigger. Montiel had been overpowered by her supporters and arrested.

Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez – not related to the vice president – declared Friday as a national holiday in defence of democracy. He said that this was the most serious event since the end of military rule in the country in 1983.

The assassination bid comes at a time when Fernandes de Kirchner is facing a corruption trial, which could lead to a 12-year prison sentence for giving contracts of public construction to friends. It is being alleged by the prosecution that she and her husband, Nestor Kirchner, who had served as president for a term in 2003, and she was president for two terms in 2007 and 2011, had favoured Lazaro Baez, a businessman who had earlier been convicted for money-laundering.

Fernandes de Kirchner denies the charges and labels as politically motivated. She is a leftist and popular among the trade unions and the working class. She has been planning to contest for the president’s post in elections due next year.

There was concern over the failed assassination bid both in Argentina and in other countries of Latin America as well as in the United States.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken condemned the attack and said that the United States stood with the “Argentine government and people in rejecting violence and hate,” while Mexico’s leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called the attack “deplorable” and described Fernandez’ escape as “miraculous”.

Observers believe that the assassination attempt has revived the political fortunes of Fernandez de Kirchner.

But there is sharp division of opinion about her involvement in the corruption case. Said taxi-driver Oscar Sanchez, 60, that the country was doing well during her presidency. He said, “I don’t trust the media or the judicial system, which is the most corrupt system there is here.”

On the other hand, there are people who believe that she is guilty. “I think the case against her is real,” said Maria, who did not give her last name.

Kirchner in a YouTube statement after the prosecution made its final statement said, “I’ve said this before. They aren’t coming for me. They’re coming for all of you. For the salaries, for workers’ rights, for retirees, for our indebtedness –that’s what they are after.” It is a strong leftist appeal to the poor and the vulnerable in a country that is going through an acute economic crisis.

It is a common feature in Latin American countries, that charges of corruption against political leaders, usually pursued by their political opponents, comes wrapped in political rivalry and ideological clash.

This has been seen in neighbouring Brazil where former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was convicted on corruption charges, but the verdict was reversed, and he is now in the presidential election fray due in October. Bolivia’s socialist president Juan Evo Morales faced charges of bending the constitution to fight a fourth term and he had to resign amid protests.

The Argentinian political polarization over Fernandez de Kirchner does not come as a surprise. But the assassination bid had caused a flutter in the political circles in the country as well as in the region.

Fernandez de Kirchner would try to capitalise on the sympathy factor arising out of the assassination bid. But her political fortune may not save Argentina from the grave economic crisis that it is facing.

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