Cristina Kirchner, 69, has survived an attack outside her Buenos Aires home after a loaded handgun aimed directly at her face at close range apparently failed to go off.

Tens of thousands of Argentines have taken to the streets in a mass denouncement of political violence.
Tens of thousands of Argentines have taken to the streets in a mass denouncement of political violence. (AFP)

Messages of shock and solidarity have poured in from around the world after a man tried to shoot Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner at point-blank range.

As tens of thousands of Argentines took to the streets in a mass denouncement of political violence on Friday, the Pope, the UN, United States and Latin American leaders sent messages of support.

Kirchner, 69, survived the attack outside her Buenos Aires home on 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, arrested at the scene, had acted alone. A case of aggravated homicide has been opened.

The man in custody was identified as 35-year-old Fernando Andre 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 Telam news agency.

Images from his social networks showed the man sporting a Nazi tattoo, and police told reporters they had found 100 bullets in an apartment he had been renting on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

Footage of the incident shows a man pointing a handgun directly at Kirchner, who was president from 2007 to 2015 and faces corruption charges dating from that time. The gun failed to go going off.

The incident took place in Buenos Aires' upscale Recoleta neighbourhood where supporters have gathered every night since August 22, when Argentine prosecutors announced they would seek a 12-year sentence against Kirchner in an ongoing graft case and her banning from politics.

'Most serious event'

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. The president declared Friday a public holiday.

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 spokesperson said.

And 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 President Jair Bolsonaro — who survived an assassination attempt on the campaign trail in 2018 — said he had sent Kirchner a note of commiseration.

On Twitter, several detractors speculated on Friday that the attack had been staged to shore up support for Kirchner in her time of legal trouble.

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.

Source: AFP