A 17-year-old man was arrested in Pontevedra on Wednesday night after landing a heavy punch in the face of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The impact of the blow left the Popular Party candidate for re-election with broken glasses and a visible bruise on the left side of his face.
The assailant, Andrés de V. F., calmly approached the PM while he was campaigning on the streets of the northwestern city, apparently to take a selfie with the politician. But suddenly he struck Rajoy with a huge amount of force, taking him completely by surprise.
Shortly after the incident, Rajoy made a statement in the street, saying: “I’m absolutely fine, very well, no problem at all.” Later on, the prime minister posted a message on his official Twitter account, saying: “I appreciate from the bottom of my heart the signs of affection and solidarity that I’m receiving this evening. We continue to work.”
The prime minister had spent nearly half-an-hour on the streets of Pontevedra, having visited a bakery owned by a friend, before taking to the center of the city. According to official sources from the campaign, the assault took place at 5.50pm next to the Peregrina church on a pedestrianized area where Rajoy lived for much of his life.
After the incident, Rajoy continued his walk, but without his glasses and with a visible mark on his face.
I appreciate from the bottom of my heart the signs of affection and solidarity that I’m receiving this evening. We continue to work” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
A witness explained that the attacker had stood next to the prime minister for a few minutes before lashing out. “He stood there at his side for a little while. Then he stood in front of Rajoy to take a photo of him. All of a sudden, he huffed and puffed, and with his left hand landed a really hard punch in his face,” the witness explained.
The same sources added that the prime minister’s security detail immediately responded and secured the assailant, who nevertheless managed to punch one of the officers before he could be handcuffed.
The PM was immediately taken to a nearby side street, where his condition could be checked. Rajoy was offered the chance of canceling an election rally planned in A Coruña later on Wednesday night, but he refused. After the rally, he told a team from state broadcaster TVE that “it has been a very full day, you will have had a bit of everything. I’m very well, thank you.”
The assailant has been identified as Andrés de V., from Pontevedra. When arrested by the police he is reported to have said: “I'm very happy to have done it,” according to police sources. The detainee, who has no prior criminal record, was taken to a police station for questioning.
Anonymous police sources had initially stated that the youngster had links to En Marea, the Podemos-backed group running in Sunday’s general election. However, this was denied by sources from the two left-wing groups, who added that the only link was that he was carrying party campaign material.
Condemnation of the incident was swift to arrive from Rajoy’s rivals in Sunday’s key election. Podemos candidate Pablo Iglesias sent Rajoy a message asking after his condition. Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party, expressed his indignation at the attack. “In the name of all Socialists and my own, I send my solidarity and condemn this assault,” he said.
The Ciudadanos candidate, Albert Rivera, stated that there was “no justification ever for any kind of violence.” United Left candidate Alberto Garzón also sent a message. “The incident today is an absolute atrocity, and has no place in a democratic, mature society.”
English version by Simon Hunter.