A provincial lawmaker from Corrientes Province was in stable condition Friday after being shot in the stomach while campaigning.
Peronist deputy Miguel Arias, who represents the Corrientes de Todos Front coalition, aligned with President Alberto Fernández, was shot during a closing campaign rally on Thursday night. The northeastern province is due to hold regional elections on Sunday to elect a new governor, vice-governor, provincial legislators and mayors for 57 municipalities.
The shocking incident – which took place in plain view as Arias shared the stage with a local mayor, Martín Ascúa, and a host of other candidates – prompted dismay and condemnation across the political spectrum.
"Political violence is inadmissible under the rule of law. The provincial government must quickly shed light on the act and punish those responsible," President Fernández posted on Twitter on Friday, condemning the attack.
Corrientes is currently governed by a centre-right alliance aligned with Fernández's predecessor Mauricio Macri.
Local authorities have not identified the person responsible for the attack on Arias, who was campaigning among around 100 people in the village of Tapebicua, 50 kilometres from the border with Brazil.
Arias, a veterinarian and father of five children, was shot in the abdomen with a .22-calibre handgun, authorities said. The deputy, a member of the Justicialist bloc in the provincial legislature, was taken to hospital and underwent a two-hour operation.
The San José hospital, in Paso de los Libres, some 55 kilometres from Tapebicúa, said on Friday that Arias was in a stable condition after receiving treatment.
Gloria Soledad Pared, a candidate for deputy mayor in Tapebicuá told the TN news channel that she was in total shock.
"I was speaking on stage, it was the closing of our campaign, a moment of democracy," she said. "He was sitting, I was standing... I moved because I was talking and that's when I heard the mayor's shouts calling for the ambulance."
"It is an attack on democracy, " she declared.
Asked about why Arias could possibly have been targeted, Pared said she was none the wiser, especially given as the town had a population of just 800 people.
“I can't tell you, it all happened so fast. It is very rare that whoever shot [him] has disappeared just like that. We all know each other, we are all neighbours. This is terrible,” she lamented.
Corrientes Province Governor Gustavo Valdés condemned the attack.
"I strongly repudiate the attack suffered by the provincial deputy Miguel Arias in Tapebicuá. Violence is never an option in a democratic society," he wrote in a post on social networks.
Valdés looks odds-on to win re-election in Sunday’s vote. Peronist candidate Fabián Ríos is his main rival.
At the national level, Argentina will hold midterm legislative elections on November 14, in which half of the Chamber of Deputies and a third of the Senate will be renewed.
– TIMES with agencies