Bid to murder Argentina's Kirchner was for 'social good': suspect

Fernando Sabag Montiel, one of the defendants in the attempted murder of former Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (LUIS ROBAYO)
Fernando Sabag Montiel, one of the defendants in the attempted murder of former Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (LUIS ROBAYO)

The man who tried to shoot Argentina's ex-president Cristina Kirchner point blank in the face told his murder trial on Wednesday that the failed assassination bid was "an act of justice" for "the social good."

"Kirchner is corrupt, she steals and harms society," said Fernando Sabag Montiel, 37, whose gun misfired after he held it to the then-vice president's face and pulled the trigger twice, on September 1, 2022.

An unrepentant Sabag Montiel went on trial Wednesday for attempted murder over the botched shooting of the politician who has been a central figure in Argentina for two decades.

"The idea was to kill Cristina," he said, calmly describing his motivation as personal and not political.

Sabag Montiel appeared in court alongside his then-girlfriend Brenda Uliarte, 25, who is being charged as a co-conspirator and allegedly incited the attack in text messages.

A third suspect, Nicolas Carrizo, 29, is a friend of the couple charged as an accomplice.

In court, the charges were read out, citing messages with clear references to the plan to kill Kirchner.

Sabag Montiel, who worked odd jobs such as ride-share driver and who sports tattoos of neo-Nazi symbols, wrote to Uliarte: "I'm going to go to Cristina's house with the gun and I'm going to shoot her."

After the attack, Carrizo boasted that Sabag Montiel was "one second away from being a national hero."

"They were fully aware of what they were doing and its possible consequences," according to the charge sheet.

- Kirchner to testify -

More than 270 witnesses are expected to be called, including Kirchner, 71, in the trial which should last "between six months and a year", according to Kirchner's lawyer Marcos Aldazabal.

The assassination attempt, caught on video, took place as Kirchner mingled with a crowd that had gathered outside her home to show their support amid her fraud trial.

The dramatic incident led to global condemnation, with Pope Francis calling Kirchner a few hours after the attack.

Kirchner alleged a wider political plot, privately financed by her opponents, but the investigating judge did not follow some of the leads she wanted looked into.

"The entire investigation was characterized by avoiding knowing the truth," Kirchner said in a statement when the case was closed.

Three months after the attack Kirchner was sentenced to six years in jail for corruption in a trial she said was a political witch hunt. She is appealing the verdict.

Kirchner came to prominence as part of the ultimate political power couple, with her and her late husband Nestor Kirchner serving a collective 12 years in the Casa Rosada, the pink presidential palace.

She served as vice-president from 2019 to 2023 and remains a vocal opponent to President Javier Milei.