The plot thickened around the investigation into the botched assasination attempt against Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Thursday. While the basic details of the failed plan are already clear to the investigators, the possibility that the perpetrator and his collaborators could be tied to right-wing extremists and even financed by establishment businessmen have surfaced as intriguing hypotheses. As the judge and prosecutor have moved forward with arrests, they’ve also honed in on an online extremist group named Revolución Federal, which has openly shown violent and anti-Peronist tendencies.
Two of the lead suspects, Fernando André Sabbag Montiel and his girlfriend Brenda Uliarte, were formally charged by Federal Judge María Eugenia Capuchetti with aggravated homicide with premeditation on Thursday. According to the indictment, they acted together and in a planned manner to attempt to kill Fernández de Kirchner, though the attack was unsuccessful. The duo will remain in police custody.
Judge Capuchetti has yet to issue charges against two of the couple's acquaintances – Agustina Díaz, 21, and Gabriel Carrizo, 27 – who were both arrested earlier this week.
The investigation has been based primarily on analysis of the suspects' social media accounts, computers and phones. They paid particular attention to the fact that Fernández de Kirchner's supporters were gathering near her house every night.
This "was studied in detail by the two [defendants] to choose the right time for the attack," Capuchetti said.
Although the pair have not been shown to be politically radical, Montiel did have tattoos of neo-Nazi symbols.
Uliarte showed clear hostility towards the vice-president, saying in one WhatsApp message: "I sent [someone] to kill Cristina."
On Wednesday, the head of Argentina’s AFI intelligence services, Agustín Rossi, presented to Judge Capuchetti material from Twitter involving two members of Revolución Federal. Rossi said it included an incitement to crime which, in his opinion, could be linked to the attempted magnicide.
The AFI material, to which the Télam state news agency gained access, centred on audio published on Twitter last August 26 under the title "Should we make her rot?" The exchange was between Revolución Federal members Jonathan Ezequiel Morel, 23, and Franco Ezequiel Castelli, 26.
Morel, who is registered as self-employed, has given several radio interviews in recent days, presenting himself as the main spokesman for Revolución Federal; Castelli is a volunteer soldier in the Argentine Army with his home address in the province of Santa Cruz.
One of the detaped audios presented by AFI to the Comodoro Py courtroom mentions the possibility of somebody infiltrating the vice-president’s supporters in order to "pass her into history" – a reference to the intended magnicide.
Another segment of the transmission included as evidence shows that one of the participants "knows the address of the son of Madame Vice-Presidente, the deputy Máximo Kirchner," said Rossi.
The two members of the Revolución Federal anti-Kirchnerite organisation, which has shown aggressive outbursts of direct action, including the installation of guillotines and scaffolds at opposition demonstrations, also exchanged insults and threats against President Alberto Fernández.
The group staged a torchlight march last August 18, concentrating in front of the Casa Rosada under the slogan "Cárcel o bala” (“Prison or bullets”), a violent protest obliging government house security staff to deploy water cannons. Uliarte participated in that march, according to a photo which she herself posted on her social networks and then subsequently deleted.
On Wednesday Nicolás Gabriel Carrizo, the presumed candy floss hawker who joined Uliarte in an interview with the Telefé television, was arrested in connection with this case after heeding a summons to go to Comodoro Py to recover his mobile telephone, which he had voluntarily handed over along with other witnesses.
Carrizo thus joins Sabbag Montiel, Uliarte and Agustina Díaz, all under arrest and accused of the failed magnicide.
Previously he had presented himself as the spokesman of the candy-floss sellers in an interview with five of them and Uliarte by Telefé Noticias, the day after the assassination attempt.
Sabbag Montiel, 35, is the man who pointed a loaded gun at the head of the vice-president and pulled the trigger without effect, 23-year-old Uliarte – also known as ‘Ámbar’ – is his girlfriend who was always on top of the manoeuvres and Díaz, 21, had spoken with Uliarte about the possibility of killing Fernández de Kirchner, urging her to get rid of her mobile telephone after the failure of the attempt.
Leaked conversations between Uliarte and Díaz revealed that they had been planning the assassination for some time and that they had failed in a previous bid.
"I ordered Cristina to be killed, it did not work out because she stayed inside," says a Whatsapp message sent by Uliarte to Díaz on August 27 and incorporated into the court file last Wednesday.
Earlier that day Uliarte had anticipated: "Today I’ll turn into [independence hero José de] San Martín, I’m going to kill Cristina...I’m sick of people talking and not doing anything. I’m going to do it. The spirit of San Martín has entered my body."
These dialogues had begun some time beforehand and continued until Sabbag Montiel’s botched attempt at magnicide on September 1, prompting Díaz to urge Uliarte to erase from her mobile anything which could link her to the attack.
"How could he miss? He hadn’t practised beforehand or his adrenaline ran dry. Where are you? Hadn’t you better go home?" Díaz texted Uliarte on September 2, the day after the failed attack against the vice-president.
"I’m with a friend. Don’t try and find out where I am in case they raid me," replied Uliarte to Díaz (who was registered in her mobile telephone as ‘Amor de mi vida’ or “love of my life”). In four consecutive messages Díaz told her to get rid of her mobile telephone and change the number.
On July 4 Uliarte had told Díaz that she was "organising a trip to the Casa Rosada with Motolov” cocktails, to which her friend replied: "That would be better, wouldn’t it?"
"I’m going with a gun and taking a shot at Cristina. I’ve got the ovaries to do it," ventured Uliarte to which Díaz replied: "That’s why I love you."
Later in the same conversation, Uliarte revealed to her: "I’m putting together a group to go with torches, bombs, guns, everything. I’m going to be the liberator of Argentina. I’ve been practising shooting with a gun.".
On Thursday Capuchetti denied Díaz exemption from imprisonment. The investigation continues.