Vice President Cristina Fernández was uninjured in the incident, which shook the South American nation already rocked by turmoil due to spiral inflation and her corruption trial which she denies.
The man attempted to kill the vice president as she was surrounded by a crowd of supporters outside her Buenos Aires residence around 9 p.m. local time (8 p.m. ET) Thursday, according to a statement from President Alberto Fernández.
Video footage of the incident verified by NBC News shows the vice president waving to loud supporters near a white vehicle when a hand appears from the crowd holding a black pistol. The hand seems to pull the trigger inches from his face and a click is heard, but no shot is heard. Members of the crowd then appear to turn and overpower the shooter.
The weapon was loaded with five bullets, according to the president. “A man pointed a gun to his head and pulled the trigger,” he said on a national broadcast after the incident.
The alleged attacker, whom authorities identified as Brazilian national Fernando Sabag Montiel, was quickly arrested by police and the weapon seized.
It was not immediately clear what his motive might have been. NBC News has contacted Argentine police and the Ministry of Security for further details.
The president said it was “the most serious incident since we got democracy back”, referring to the end of the country’s military junta in 1983.
“We may disagree, we may have deep disagreements, but in a democratic society hate speech cannot take place because it breeds violence and there is no possibility that violence coexists with democracy” , did he declare. “Our vice-president was attacked and the social peace was disturbed.”
Alberto Fernández, who is not related to the vice president, called for an immediate investigation into the incident and announced that Friday would be a national holiday in solidarity with her.
Other officials also denounced the attack, accusing the opposition of promoting violence.
“When hatred and violence prevail over the debate of ideas, they destroy societies and generate situations like today: an assassination attempt”, declared on Twitter the Minister of Economy. Sergio Massa.
The vice president previously served two terms as the country’s president from 2007 to 2015. She is a politically powerful and polarizing figure in Argentina.
She faces corruption charges during her tenure as president, charges she has consistently and vehemently denied.
Supporters of the vice president have been gathering in the streets around her home in the upscale Recoleta neighborhood of the Argentine capital since last week when a prosecutor called for a 12-year sentence against her, as well as a ban for life to hold public office.
Cristina Fernández became Argentina’s first woman elected president in 2007. She was previously first lady when her husband, Néstor Kirchner, ruled the country in the early 2000s. She belongs to the left-wing Justicialist Party.
Former President Mauricio Macri, a conservative who succeeded him, also condemned the attack. “This very serious event requires immediate and profound clarification from justice and security forces,” he wrote on Twitter.
Patricia Bullrich, a former minister under Macri and leader of the opposition Republican Proposal party, criticized the president’s response to the attack.