Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner underwent successful surgery this morning to remove a blood clot close to her brain.
Fernandez is recovering in an intensive care unit, doctors from the Favaloro Foundation clinic in Buenos Aires said in a statement. Fernandez, 60, was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma on Oct. 5, eight weeks after a blow to the head, her spokesman Alfredo Scoccimarro said, without providing further details.
“The operation was a success and she’s in good spirits and accompanied by her family,” Scoccimarro told reporters after today’s surgery. The next bulletin on her health will be released tomorrow at noon.
Fernandez was elected in 2007 to succeed her husband Nestor Kirchner, who died in 2010, winning a second term four years later. While overseeing average annual growth of 5.5 percent, she has tightened her grip of the economy through currency controls and the seizure of key companies, and been locked in a legal battle with holders of bonds left over from Argentina’s $95 billion default in 2001.
Doctors, who initially advised a month’s rest, decided to operate when Fernandez subsequently complained of tingling in her left arm.
Since her October 2011 re-election, the lawyer and former senator has canceled activities, including trips abroad, at least four times because of low blood pressure. Vice President and former Economy Minister Amado Boudou yesterday assumed Fernandez’s duties, as he did when she underwent thyroid surgery in January 2012 for a misdiagnosed cancer.
Fernandez has seen her popularity tumble since her October 2011 re-election as discontent grows over rising crime, restrictions on dollar purchases and estimated 25 percent annual inflation. In August primaries for Oct. 27 mid-term congressional elections, candidates from her Victory Front alliance garnered 30 percent of votes, the least in a decade. Sergio Massa, a former cabinet chief who leads a group of dissident Peronist Party members, won 35 percent support.
Since the primaries, Argentine bonds and stocks have rallied on speculation a more market-friendly government will take over when Fernandez’s term ends in 2015. The constitution bars her from seeking a third term. The Merval index of leading shares has gained 36 percent while the government’s dollar-denominated bond maturing in 2017 rose 1.6 percent.
The extra yield investors demand to hold Argentine debt instead of U.S. Treasuries fell 20 basis points, or 0.2 percentage point, to 977 basis points at 1:40 p.m. in Buenos Aires, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Fernandez’s policies of fueling domestic consumption and economic growth by printing money and boosting state spending has stoked the region’s fastest inflation after Venezuela. Consumer prices rose 25 percent in August, according to private estimates. That’s more than double the 10.5 percent reported by the national statistics agency, whose numbers prompted the International Monetary Fund to censure Argentina in February for producing inaccurate data.
Fernandez’s popularity fell to 33.5 percent from as high as 64.1 percent in October 2011, according to a Sept. 21 to Oct. 3 poll of 2,000 people conducted by Management & Fit. The poll, which has a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points, shows Massa leading the 2015 presidential race with 23 percent support, followed by Buenos Aires Governor and Fernandez supporter Daniel Scioli, with 19.8 percent.
Boudou, who faces a court investigation on whether he improperly helped a printing company exit bankruptcy, has the worst image among leading politicians, according to the poll.
Boudou “is not only being investigated by the courts but his credibility is also under suspicion by the public,” said M&F’s Managing Director Mariel Fornoni.
Cabinet Chief Juan Manuel Abal Medina yesterday said the allegations against Boudou were false, state-run news agency Telam reported.
Any sympathy Fernandez’s health may gain from some from voters will be offset by her absence in the final stages of this month’s mid-term election campaign, Fornoni said in a telephone interview from Buenos Aires.
“This is one of the government’s weakest moments,” Fornoni said. “They just lost an election, it looks like they’ll lose the next, and moreover she can’t be re-elected. It all points to the end of a cycle.”
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