The man who attempted to assassinate Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner on Thursday is a Brazilian with a criminal history and a Nazi tattoo.
The suspect was identified as 35-year-old Fernando Andre Sabag Montiel. He attempted to shoot Kirchner point-blank outside her Buenos Aires home, but the loaded handgun he aimed at her face apparently failed to go off.
Montiel posted images of himself on Instagram posing in front of a mirror, showing off his tattoos. On his elbow is a black sun symbol, called schwarze sonne in German, according to the Spanish news outlet El Pais.
The emblem is also known as the sonnenrad, or sun wheel. It was used in Nazi Germany and has been adopted by neo-Nazis.
The symbol has been used by white supremacist and neo-Nazi mass shooters in the past. Payton Gendron, a white supremacist who killed 10 Black people in May in Buffalo, New York, had the black sun emblazoned on his gear. Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in 2019, had the symbol on his vest.
The Anti-Defamation League lists the black sun as a hate symbol and says the swastika is a variant.
Montiel described himself as a “Christian” on social media. His Instagram account appears to have been taken down.
So, it seems #Kirchner’s attacker – Fernando Andre Sabag Montiel – was born in #Brazil, but has actually been living in #Argentina for 20 years, and has become an Argentine citizen.
He also has a #neoNazi “black sun” tattoo on his elbow.#farright #CristinaKirchner pic.twitter.com/piehGCV8Ee
— Duroyan Fertl (@dfertl) September 2, 2022
The suspect is a Brazilian man who has an Argentine mother. He had previously been arrested for illegal weapons possession, according to police sources quoted by the Telam news agency.
Police told reporters they had found 100 bullets in an apartment he had been renting on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Police were investigating whether the attacker, arrested at the scene, had acted alone. A case of aggravated homicide has been opened.
The dramatic assassination attempt was caught on video.
La séquence est juste incroyable: tentative d’assassinat contre l’ex-présidente argentine Cristina Kirchner, hier soir à Buenos Aires. Le tireur s’approche d’elle, tire, mais l’arme s’enraye… #baraka pic.twitter.com/Jo6pT1gr6r
— Arnaud Bédat (@ArnaudBedat) September 2, 2022
Footage shows a man pointing a handgun directly at Kirchner, 69, who was president from 2007 to 2015 and faces corruption charges dating from that time. The gun failed to go off.
The incident took place in Buenos Aires’ upscale Recoleta neighborhood where supporters have gathered every night since August 22, when Argentine prosecutors announced they would seek a 12-year sentence against Kirchner and a lifetime ban from politics in the ongoing graft case.
“I saw this arm come up over my shoulder behind me with a gun, and with people around me, he was subdued,” a witness, who did not give his name, told AFP.
Another, who would only give her first name, Teresa, said: “We were waiting for our beloved Cristina. And she just came down to greet everyone, like every night, to greet the people. And all of a sudden, there was a commotion, and it was that guy who pointed [a gun] at her.”
The scene of the crime was cordoned off by police Friday, with a handful of Kirchner backers gathered nearby.
The attempted killing elicited messages of shock and solidarity from around the world, as tens of thousands of Argentines took to the streets in a mass denouncement of political violence.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez announced to the nation that “Cristina remains alive, because for a reason that has not yet been technically confirmed, the gun which contained five bullets did not fire despite the trigger having been pulled.”
He said this was the “most serious event that has happened since we restored democracy” in 1983.
Pope Francis, himself a former archbishop of Buenos Aires, sent Kirchner a telegram expressing “solidarity,” according to the Vatican.
UN chief Antonio Guterres was “shocked” by the events and “condemns this violence,” a spokeswoman said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: “We stand with the Argentine government and people in rejecting violence and hate.”
Latin American politicians also offered support, with messages from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Chile’s Gabriel Boric, Luis Arce of Bolivia, Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador, among others.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s former president locked in a fierce election battle, slammed Kirchner’s attacker as “a fascist criminal.”
His rival, incumbent Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — who survived an assassination attempt on the campaign trail in 2018 — said he had sent Kirchner a note of commiseration.
“Good thing the assailant did not know how to handle weapons,” added the controversial far-right leader.
Kirchner enjoys a loyal support base among followers of the center-left Peronism movement inherited from former Argentine president Juan Peron, but is disliked in equal measure by the political opposition.
Kirchner, a lawyer who succeeded her late husband Nestor Kirchner as president, stands accused of fraudulently awarding public works contracts in her political stronghold of Patagonia.
Government prosecutors accuse her of defrauding the state out of some $1 billion. She denies the claims.
Kirchner is also accused of obstructing the investigation into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, allegedly carried out by Hezbollah terrorists funded by Iran, which killed 85 and injured hundreds.