Secrecy envelops Argentine president's recovery

Associated Press SHARE

By MICHAEL WARREN, Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The doctors who removed a blood clot from the brain of Argentina's president said Wednesday that she's improving "without complications." But their terse report gave no information suggesting how long the government will be without its charismatic leader in charge.

Their three-sentence report said Cristina Fernandez's vital signs were "normal" and her spirits "very good." It said the 60-year-old leader would begin eating later Wednesday.

Her spokesman, Alfredo Scoccimarro, appeared briefly before a crowd outside the hospital to announce the doctors' report, adding only that the president had slept well and "sends a big kiss to all the Argentines."

And that was it. The only government official authorized to release details about Fernandez's condition left without taking questions.

The lack of details frustrated Argentines such as Fernando Ballester, a 40-year-old office administrator. "She has the obligation to inform us. The president's health is a matter of state," he said.

"The country can't function without Cristina," he said. "Our political system is focused on the presidency, and especially the president we have now, who makes all the decisions."

Laboratory worker Silvina Caceres agreed: "It's not OK that the president of the republic doesn't keep the people informed about her health. Her life is not private ... If not, all she feeds to the people is paranoia."

Caceres was among many who are convinced Fernandez will keep working behind the scenes. "She keeps governing from the clinic," Caceres said.

Even Vice President Amado Boudou, nominally in charge of the executive branch while Fernandez recuperates, suggested as much on Tuesday, the day of her surgery. He declared in a speech that "to Cristina, her country is more important than her own health!"

Brain surgeons not involved in Fernandez's surgery consulted by The Associated Press said there was no reason to think that the surgery could have lasting complications, but they said the risks would increase if she tried to go back to work too soon.

They also differed widely on how long such patients generally need to recuperate — the Argentines consulted said she could be out from 30 to even 90 days, while U.S. experts said she could be back to work in a week.

A member of the surgical team, Dr. Pablo Rubino, suggested Wednesday that Argentines have little need to worry. "Once she's completely recovered, there won't be any problem. She'll be able to do any sort of activity," he said.

But Rubino, the chief of vascular surgery at the Fundacion Favaloro, where Fernandez remained in intensive therapy, stressed that confidentiality vows prevented her doctors from saying how long she might need to recover.

"We can't enter into details, but the information was absolutely faithful. The communications are absolutely accurate," Rubino said. Pressed by a government radio host to say whether Fernandez could be out for a month, he said, "Some need less, some need more."

Argentina's looming challenges include the Oct. 27 congressional elections, in which the ruling party now lacks its top campaigner. Another devastating loan default became more likely this week when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Argentina's initial appeal in its debt fight. The economy has slowed, the currency is losing value and inflation is soaring.

Ruling party lawmakers were making the best of it, debating the 2014 budget Wednesday. But many had questioned Boudou's leadership because of the corruption investigations he faces, and the presidency didn't make public the formal transfer-of-power document that usually indicate how long a president would need to be replaced.

"It's like we're on stand-by," Caceres said. "Nothing important is going to happen until she takes the reins again."

___

Associated Press writers Frederick Bernas, Almudena Calatrava and Debora Rey contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.