The emblematic Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires was filled with demonstrators on Friday as huge crowds repudiated the attack on Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was unharmed, considering it a momentous event in Argentina's young democracy.
Dozens of columns of trade unions and political organisations marched through the centre of Buenos Aires and other cities across the country, but many middle-class workers without affiliation, professionals and students also joined the call of the government, which decreed a bank holiday to facilitate participation.
Among the hundreds of Argentine flags and banners from social and trade union groups, posters with the slogan "Basta de odio" (“Enough hate”) abounded.
"This mobilisation shows that we disagree with what is happening, that they have to stop the hatred and the attacks," said Monica Sucoti, a 71-year-old teacher clutching an Argentine flag.
"We who have lived through the coups d'état in Argentina cannot tolerate this. It is an act against democracy, that is what is in danger because of the hatred against those who think differently," she added.
Sucoti considered that "it is the lack of tolerance and empathy towards the other [side] that has caused political disagreements to undermine society to the point of opening the so-called ‘grieta’ rift that confronts Peronists and anti-Peronists and which is synthesised in the figure of Cristina."
For Laura Itchat, a 47-year-old university teacher who came with her five-month-old baby, the attack on the vice-president should be a turning point to put an end to la grieta.
"We are facing a very serious moment, which no sector can fail to repudiate in order to defend democracy because it puts us at a limit that it is essential not to tread on," she said.
At 17 years of age, Juan Ignacio Saíz says he is fed up with political confrontations and considers the attack to be the result of "years of hate speech and rifts."
"Politics has become a fight between 'barra bravas'," he said, referring to Argentina's infamous football hooligans.
Amid the deafening sound of drumbeats, columns of demonstrators advanced until they reached the historic Plaza de Mayo, in front of the presidential headquarters Casa Rosada.
"If they touch Cristina, what chaos we’ll make," was one of the chants sung by the crowd.
On a platform in front of government house, ministers, political and trade union leaders, as well as representatives of the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights groups, took part in a ceremony in which a document calling for peaceful coexistence was read out.
"This march could have been otherwise, nobody takes the full dimension of what happened," reflected Gustavo Capra, 66, who came with his wife and daughter out of "a moral obligation.”
Regarding the attacker, a 35 year old man, arrested at the time of the attack, he considered that he was "a young man manipulated by all the media and by a blind opposition that uses Peronism and Kirchnerism as a punching bag to beat him and bring his people closer to them. That has to stop, they have to do politics properly," he said.
For Sergio Wischñevsky, a university professor and historian, Fernández de kirchner is alive because of a "miracle."
"If that shot had gone off and killed Cristina, we would be entering a spiral of violence that would take us to the seventh ring of hell.”
by Sonia Avalos, AFP