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Argentina arrests third suspect in VP attack: reports

Authorities have arrested a woman accused of involvement in the failed assassination attempt, local media report.

Authorities in Argentina have arrested a third person suspected of involvement in the failed assassination attempt on Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner earlier this month, news outlets and local media reported.

Citing an official familiar with the matter, the Associated Press news agency reported Tuesday that the suspect, identified as Agustina Diaz, was arrested Monday night in San Miguel, a suburb of the capital Buenos Aires.

The arrest came after information about the new suspect was found on the mobile phone of the partner of alleged shooter Fernando Sabag Montiel, a Brazilian citizen.

Authorities said Sabag Montiel pulled the trigger of a loaded gun inches from Fernandez de Kirchner’s head, but she did not fire.

Sabag Montiel was arrested at the scene of the attempted September 1 shooting, while his girlfriend, Argentinian Brenda Uliarte, was arrested three days later at a Buenos Aires train station.

The apparent assassination has rocked Argentine politics, which is already reeling from an ongoing economic crisis that has stoked sharp internal divisions between the ruling Peronist centre-left coalition of which the vice president is a part.

The incident sparked a wave of support for Fernandez de Kirchner, and hundreds of thousands of Argentines descended on the capital’s main square on September 2 to show their solidarity with the vice president.

Fernandez de Kirchner, 69, a controversial figure and arguably Argentina’s most powerful political figure, is facing possible corruption charges linked to an alleged plan to siphon public funds. A prosecutor recently asked for a 12-year prison sentence for her.

She denies wrongdoing and her supporters have taken to the streets, gathering daily outside her home to criticize the judiciary and the conservative opposition for leading a witch hunt against her.

President Alberto Fernandez’s office called for an end to the “rhetoric of hate” and said the attack on Fernandez de Kirchner was the worst since the country’s return to democracy decades ago.

Authorities accuse Sabag Montiel, 35, and Uliarte, 23, of attempting to assassinate Kirchner “with planning and prior consent.”

Sabag Montiel’s motive is unknown and authorities have yet to explain how or why his loaded gun failed to fire.

Diaz, the third suspect arrested on Monday, is said to have been a close friend of Uliarte and part of a small, informal organization that planned the attack on the vice president, according to local media reports.

The AFP news agency, citing court sources, reported that the third suspect had allegedly been in communication with Uliarte for a month and even discussed a possible attack on Fernandez de Kirchner.

Video surveillance footage showed the couple at the scene on the day of the alleged assassination. Their phones also contained pictures of them posing with a gun.

Authorities believe a plan to attack the vice president was abandoned a few days before the assassination.

Security Minister Anibal Fernandez said on Tuesday that security around Fernandez de Kirchner had been increased after a death threat over the emergency line.

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