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ARGENTINA | 10-05-2019 13:40

Four detained as enquiry into shooting attack near Congress progresses

Officials say at least four people have been detained for the brazen shooting attack near Congress on Thursday that seriously wounded UCR deputy Héctor Olivares and killed La Rioja provincial official Miguel Marcelo Yadón.

Officials said at least four people have been detained for the brazen shooting attack near Congress on Thursday that seriously wounded a lawmaker and killed a provincial official. At least one person was arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack.

In dramatic scenes captured by CCTV cameras and later broadcast to the nation, Héctor Olivares and Miguel Marcelo Yadón were fired upon as they walked near the National Congress building in the capital by gunmen in a parked car. 

Olivares, a national deputy for La Rioja (UCR-Radical), remains in a critical condition after undergoing emergency surgery after the attack at the Ramos Mejía Hospital, treating gunshot wounds that pierced his abdomen and affected vital organs. 

Yadón, a transport employee for the La Rioja provincial government, died quickly from the injuries he sustained in the attack.

Officials said Friday the case had no political connotations, despite the identity of the victims. The two men, said to have been close friends since their teenage years, were shot at least six times by a .40-calibre pistol.

"The case is clear and we have confirmed that it was not a political crime. The target of the murder was Yadón," Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told A24 TV. "We have a hypothesis about it being a purely personal attack. We are going to meet with all the investigators to finish putting this puzzle together."

Security Ministry Cabinet Chief Gerardo Milman told local TV on Friday that Juan Jesús Fernández, a 42-year-old street vendor known as 'el Gitano', had been arrested in for Concepción del Uruguay, Entre Ríos Province. 

His daughter, Estefanía Fernández, and two other men – later identified as Luis Cano and Rafael Cano Caramona, the brother-in-law of the alleged attacker – were also taken into custody.

Juan Jesús Fernández is the owner of the car from which the gunmen launched their attack, which took place just 300 metres from Congress, in the centre of Buenos Aires. Rafael Cano Caramona, who was authorised to drive the vehicle for work purposes, is believed to have initially parked the car before the attack. Cano is believed to have been one of the gunmen involved in the attack.

Unconfirmed reports in local outlets suggested the trigger for the attack may have been a relationship between Yadón, a coordinator who worked in the fiduciary of La Rioja's federal electric transportation system, and Estefanía Fernández.

Brazen attack

Government officials had vowed to do everything possible to bring the perpetrators to justice on Thursday, as politicians from across the political spectrum denounced the attack.

"We're moved by this attack," President Mauricio Macri said in a televised address, during which he expressed condolences to Yadón's family. "We're praying for Héctor's life ... We will do everything to find out what happened and find out who is guilty of this."

Olivares and Yadón, who reportedly were friends since their teenage years, were fired upon around 7am local time near Congress.

Local media initially reported that the two men had been shot from a moving vehicle, but a surveillance video of the shooting released by the Security Ministry showed a parked car waiting for them. As the duo walk by, they're seen being shot at close range. Yadón collapses on the sidewalk, while an injured Olivares tries to get up and holds up his arms in a desperate cry for help.

The attackers, however, don't immediately flee the scene. A burly man in the driver's seat then steps out of the car and paces. Another man also steps out and walks away calmly. When a police officer arrives on the scene, the car drives away slowly.

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said Thursday the shooting "confirms the presence of mafias in our country."

"Yadón was killed from a car that was waiting for him," Bullrich said, speaking at a press conference. "They shot the main target, which was Yadón; they achieved his murder and, having the opportunity to murder Olivares, they decide not to kill him."

Investigation

Bullrich said authorities had found the car used in the crime and had identified suspects, but she added the motive had not been confirmed and was still being investigated.

Local TV broadcast images late Thursday of federal police officers escorting a man suspected of having links to the attack from his apartment into a police car. His face was covered by a hood, and authorities did not release any other details.

As well as belonging to the Radical party, part of President Macri's ruling Cambiemos coalition, Olivaresis also part of the transportation committee in the lower house Chamber of Deputies. Before he was shot, he had been discussing a bill against the barra brava, Argentina's infamous football hooligans. 

"If it does turn out the judicial investigations show there is a connection to politically motivated violence then we can definitely say that we're facing a very grave institutional event," Olivares' spokesman, Ulises Bencina, told The Associated Press news agency.

Attacks on politicians are unusual in Argentina. Officials suggested yesterday it was the first attack of its kind since the days of the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

- TIMES/AP/AFP

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