May 13, 2019 / 5:51 PM / 13 days ago

Argentine military scrambles after bomb threat against presidential palace

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s military and federal police scrambled to secure the presidential palace in Buenos Aires on Monday after a bomb threat made while President Mauricio Macri was in the building, just hours after a man was arrested trying to enter with a gun.

A police van is seen parked outside the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace after bomb threats in Buenos Aires, Argentina May 13, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

The threat against Casa Rosada was made via a phone call in which a person indicated a plan to put a bomb inside a car, the office of Argentina’s Secretary General told Reuters.

The military activated its protocol for such threats, and a team was dispatched to check and secure the entrances of Casa Rosada, the presidential palace and seat of national government. No car containing explosives was found, and the building was not evacuated.

“There is no possibility of a bomb entering without detecting it,” an official from the office of the secretary general said.

Local media reported that another threat was made against a congressional office and a response team was also on the scene there. The city has faced false bomb threats before, including ahead of a meeting of the Group of 20 nations last year.

Earlier in the day, a man carrying a gun who claimed to have a meeting with Macri was arrested trying to enter the palace, Macri’s office said in a statement.

Security personnel said Francisco Ariel Muniz, 36, tried to enter the building with a .44 Magnum Taurus revolver inside his briefcase.

After officials confirmed that he did not have a scheduled meeting with Macri, Muniz tried to leave the briefcase behind and was detained by security personnel. The gun was not loaded, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said in a tweet.

The center-right Macri, who came into office in 2015, will seek re-election in October in what is likely to be a closely fought battle in the recession-hit nation. He has been falling in opinion polls amid high inflation and a tumbling peso.

An attack outside Argentina’s Congress last week led to the deaths of a senior lawmaker and an aide, though local officials and media have indicated the motive behind the “mafia-style” shooting was personal rather than political.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sonya Hepinstall

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