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ARGENTINA | 12-09-2022 15:32

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's attacker – not such a lone wolf?

Fernando André Sabag Montiel, the man who pulled the trigger against Cristina Fernández de Kirchner but failed to kill her, is still an unknown quantity in Argentina – but it's increasingly looking like he did not act alone.

He has been described as a mythomaniac with a marginal lifestyle. He sports tattoos of Nazi symbology and has taken pictures of himself wielding a gun. Fernando André Sabag Montiel, the man who pulled the trigger against Cristina Fernández de Kirchner but failed to kill her, is still an unknown quantity in Argentina.

Of no known political activism, the 35-year-old was arrested as soon as he attacked the vice-president on September 1 outside her home in Buenos Aires, placing a Bersa .32-calibre pistol inches from her face.

Sabag Montiel "is not a hitman [because] he made emotional mistakes," said Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Sergio Berni.

"He rushed to the scene where he was going to carry out his plans and didn't load the gun in a state of stress," Berni conjectured, adding that Fernández de Kirchner "is alive by a miracle".

The attacker had got so close to the vice-president by mimicking a group of her supporters who were waiting to greet her and ask for her autograph, eight days after prosecutors asked that she be handed 12 years in prison for her and a lifetime ban from political office for alleged corruption offences.

The assassination attempt was "planned" in advance by Sabag and his girlfriend Brenda Uliarte, 23, according to the indictment. 

Although the case is under investigation, photos taken from their mobile phones and from security cameras in the area of the attack have made the pages of Argentina’s newspapers. In them, both can be seen showing off the weapon allegedly used in the attack, or selling cotton floss in the area around Fernández de Kirchner's house in the days prior to the attack.

On his social networks accounts, which have since been shut down, Sabag Montiel posted pictures showing a black sun tattooed on his elbow and an iron cross in his hand. But investigators have not verified his membership of far-right groups.

For sociologist Jorge Elbaum, his tattoos “demonstrate a certain neo-Nazi identification, something that does not require much rationality or critical awareness, but rather a sense of belonging to an integrating logic of hate.”

The child of an Argentine mother and Chilean father, Sabag Montiel was born in São Paulo in Brazil but moved to Argentina as a child. He had no formal job. Some 100 nine-millimetre bullets were found in his house on the outskirts of Buenos Aires amidst piles of mess and the stench of rubbish.

He had previously been arrested in 2021 for illegal possession of a large knife, but the case was closed.

 

Conscious vs. impressionable

A first psychological evaluation found that Sabag Montiel is "located in time and space."

In his jail cell, he has not received visitors. His mother died in 2017 and his father lives in Chile, according to local press reports. He owns two cars, with which he worked for a chauffeur-driven travel app.

"He's very quiet, he always walked around with his head down, untidy, unkempt," said Pablo, Sabag Montiel's neighbour and a mechanic for his cars, who he said "abandoned them in the street because he didn't have money to fix them."

The justice system is currently investigating a group of five friends of the attackers, all alleged candy floss sellers who initially testified as witnesses.

Months ago, Sabag Montiel had criticised the social policies of Alberto Fernández's government, when he was interviewed in the middle of a street protest.

Uliarte declared before the court that she did not believe her boyfriend to be "capable of committing such an act beyond the differences he has with this lady" – a reference to Fernández de Kirchner.

On the night of the attack, she left the scene, apparently uninterested in her boyfriend's arrest.

Investigators have since found that Uliarte was offering pornographic videos on social media under another identity. They have also discovered that her mother abandoned her, and she was sexually abused as a child.

Her father, Leonardo Uliarte – who declared himself to be an "ultra-Kirchnerite" – told the Clarín newspaper that his daughter "is manipulated” and “doesn't like politics." According to him, Brenda lost a newborn son in 2020 and since then she has not been “in her right mind."

Andrés, her former partner and the late baby's father, described her as a young woman who is “incapable of planning or participating in something like what happened" and said she suffers from a "maturity delay."

Her home was raided because she was there right there after the attack. Investigators found a white bag she was carrying that day.

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