The lower house Chamber of Deputies held a tense special session on Saturday, just two days after the failed shocking attack on Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, as lawmakers tried to offer the nation at least some sign of political unity.
Togetherness, however, was lacking for the most part as pro-government lawmakers and opposition deputies clashed over culpability for and the reaction to the tragedy, from which the vice-president luckily emerged unscathed.
With many questions about the circumstances of the attack still answered, and in the midst of high political tensions that have not abated in the wake of the attack, a large group of opposition deputies quickly withdrew from the chamber after agreeing to a statement condemning the attack and calling for peaceful coexistence.
"The Honourable Chamber of Deputies of the Nation expresses its energetic repudiation of the assassination attempt … We demand the prompt and complete clarification and condemnation of those responsible for this regrettable event, which tarnishes life in democracy. We exhort the entire leadership and the population to seek ways that will lead to social peace," read the text, which was agreed at the last minute between the congressional benches and voted by a show of hands.
After the approval of the text had been agreed, deputies of the PRO party (Republican Proposal, founded by former president Mauricio Macri, left the session without taking the floor.
"We do not want this very serious event [the assassination attempt] to be used with the aim of generating more division, assigning blame and much less to become a platform for attacking the political opposition, the judiciary and the media," the bloc said in a statement referringto reproaches about the alleged propagation of “hate speech.”
Among the opponents who remained in the session, Radical deputy Mario Negri deplored "the discourse that states that the violent one is the other side."
"It is pure cynicism. It does not help, it is not sincere. It takes a great mea culpa to have the dignity to call for an agreement to defend democracy," Negri said.
The Senate, over which the vice-president herself presides as the head of the chamber, had already formally condemned the attack late Thursday night when it occurred.
Fernández de Kirchner, 69, survived the attack outside her Buenos Aires home Thursday after a loaded handgun aimed directly at her face at close range apparently failed to go off. The dramatic incident was captured on video.
Police were investigating whether the attacker, who was arrested at the scene, acted alone. A case of aggravated homicide has been opened.
The man in custody was identified as 35-year-old Fernando André Sabag Montiel, a Brazilian man who has an Argentine mother. He had previously been arrested for illegal weapons possession, according to police sources quoted by the Télam news agency.
mages from his social networks showed the man sporting a Neo-Nazi tattoo, and police told reporters they had found 100 bullets in an apartment he had been renting on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Thursday night’s failed attack took place in the wealthy City neighbourhood of Recoleta, where supporters have gathered every night since August 22, when prosecutors announced they would seek a 12-year sentence against Fernández de Kirchner and a lifetime ban from politics in an ongoing graft case. Those developments further inflamed escalating political tensions.
For political scientist Diego Reynoso of the Universidad de San Andrés, the attack should force the nation’s political class to come together and reduce polarisation.
"But it is difficult to know if this will be achieved with this level of political activation from one side or the other. This tension is not going anywhere – it does not generate stability, it does not solve the problems of inflation or employment," he told the AFP news agency in an interview.
Fernández de Kirchner is as loved by his followers as she is detested by the opposition. She continues to have great influence and power in Argentina, seven years after leaving the presidency and one year out from the 2023 elections. She has not announced if she will run for office next time out.