If you’re an unpopular South American politician suspected of corruption, you might want to think twice before boarding a 9-hour flight to Miami with a bunch of your fellow countrymen.
Carlos Zannini, a former right hand man to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, learned that the hard way when he was confronted by a rowdy mob of passengers aboard an American Airlines just prior to departure.
The politician has never been directly accused of any wrongdoing, but his deputy secretary is being investigated for illicit enrichment by Argentine prosecutors as part of a broader probe of former top officials from the Kirchner administration.
Newly elected center-right President Mauricio Macri, who is dismantling the previous government's protectionist policies, has vowed to push forward on corruption investigations against his predecessor's administration—a situation that some are denouncing as a political witch hunt.
For some critics of the former administration, any involvement in the Kirchner government is guilt by association, as Zannini recently learned on the plane.
“Shameless!” “Rat!” “Thief!” “Son of a bitch!” a group of passengers shouted at the former legal and technical secretary to the president, who couldn't sink far enough into the seat to avoid the verbal barrage from passengers surrounding him as they were boarding the plane.
The crowd of loud Argentine passengers chanted insults, swore, and even took selfies with the stunned-looking politico.
Zannini, whose party often railed against U.S. capitalism, was also mocked for booking travel with an American company.
Cellphone videos of the incident have spread like wildfire on Argentine social media, and appear to be inspiring some in other Latin American countries. “Cristina Kirchner’s right hand is jeered during flight. Would the same happen here?,” asked a Twitter headline by Mexican media outlet MVS.
Many are applauding the passengers' excoriation of Zannini, but others are cautioning the method.
To shame Zannini on a flight to Miami does not solve anything. You should have voted in 2011, MORONS.
It's not clear if anyone was removed from the plane after the incident. American Airlines declined to comment on the incident, citing the privacy and safety of their customers. The company said the flight departed as scheduled.
A day earlier, Zannini was confronted by another angry crowd of soccer fans during a match in Buenos Aires.