Trial starts over the 2022 assassination attempt of Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Three suspects went on trial Wednesday before a federal court in Argentina for the assassination attempt two years ago of then-Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, one of the country’s most powerful and divisive political figures in recent decades.

On that day, Sept. 1, 2022, Fernández stepped out of her car outside her apartment building and began shaking hands with a throng of well-wishers when Fernando Sabag Montiel, pushed forward with a gun, pointed it just inches from her face and pulled the trigger.

A click was heard but no shot was fired and experts later said there was no bullet in the chamber. Still, the attempt on the life of Fernández — who served as president from 2007 to 2015 — shook Argentina, a country with a history of political violence.

Sabag Montiel was grabbed by Fernández’s supporters at the scene, and handed over to police. The Brazilian national, who has lived in Argentina for decades, told local media in 2023 that he does not regret his actions and that he acted alone.

His girlfriend at the time, Brenda Uliarte, was arrested days later, accused of taking part in the assassination attempt. The two worked together as street vendors, selling cotton candy. Nicolás Carrizo, the couple’s friend and boss, is also on trial, as an accomplice. Uliarte and Carrizo have both denied involvement.

Sabag Montiel, 37, told the jury that he is “apolitical,” that his attack on Fernández was an “act of justice” and that he was “more committed to the social good than anything else.” He testified that his then-girlfriend was his partner in crime.

“I wanted to kill her and she (Uliarte) wanted Fernández to die,” said Montiel, who faces at least 15 years in prison.

The proceedings are expected to take at least one year.

More than 200 witnesses will testify, including Fernández herself. The former president, now 71, has expressed dissatisfaction with the investigation, saying it did not delve into the ideological motive for the attack and that she suspects opposition sectors could have planned and financed it.

After the proceedings opened on Wednesday, she reposted on X a message from Juan Martín Mena, the current justice minister in the province of Buenos Aires, saying the assassination attempt was “one of the most serious events since the recovery of democracy” in 1983 in the country and that judges and prosecutors “have the responsibility and obligation to investigate it.”

Although the three detainees had no political affiliation, they were active on social networks opposed to Fernández and the government of former President Alberto Fernández.

Carlos Rívolo, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation, said in mid-2023 that there was no evidence that a political organization financed, planned, covered up or in any way contributed to the assassination attempt.

At the time, Fernández was on trial for alleged corruption. That trial resulted in a six-year prison sentence and a lifetime disqualification from holding public office for the crime of defrauding the state. She has appealed and those proceedings are pending.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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