Fireworks explode into blue skies above the Plaza de Mayo, where demonstrators arrive in huge numbers. They have gathered “to defend democracy” on the national holiday President Alberto Fernández decreed in response to Thursday’s night’s failed assassination attempt against Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The steady thump of drums and chants give a tense atmosphere to the sunny spring morning. The air is filled with smoke from the many impromptu asados, set-up in hope of making a quick profit from the flood of supporters making their way to demonstrate in front of the Casa Rosada. Activists are already up ladders, painting fresh slogans on walls and banners in support of Cristina.
“I’m here today because what happened yesterday cannot be permitted in our society,” Leandro, a 28-year old doctor, tells the Times. “I feel that something very serious happened. We have not seen political violence in our society for a long time. We said ‘Nunca más’ in ’83. We are saying ‘Nunca más’ to political violence.”
Agus stands wrapped in a rainbow flag. The 32-year-old penitentiary service worker says he and his friends are here in support of the vice-president and her achievements in office. “The years of the Kirchner governments have been the best years of my life. We won many rights: gay marriage, the Gender Identity Law, the Transgender Employment Quota Law,” he explains. “I really hope for a commitment from all sectors of the political arena to protect democracy, and to lessen hate speech.”
Alejo, a cheerful musician in his late twenties, is attending the rally to defend democracy, “the best worst thing.”
“It’s not just about Cristina. I would still be here today for a politician that I had not voted for. If it happened to another person, many people in this crowd would still be here. We have in this country a terrible history of undemocratic actions. I think it’s important for us all to say no to this kind of hatred,” he says.
Alvaro, a 59-year-old pawnbroker attending the rally with his wife, also felt like taking a stand. He expects a response from yesterday’s attack: “Society will react against this right-wing hatred. We need to stand against this death and hatred.”
Some, however, feel the march is just another part of the political game – 21-year old student Magui chose not to attend.
“It’s not a rally organised by the people. It’s organised by the government to show support to Cristina. Why declare it a holiday? So everyone can protest.
“I was at university when I saw the news. At first I thought it was fake – maybe I still do a little bit, like it was prepared by the Kirchneristas.”
Nevertheless, she condemned the failed assassination attempt. “It’s scary. I want a country where people don’t have to consider killing a vice-president in order to get justice,” she sighs.