Argentineans went to bed on Saturday night knowing that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will have to temporarily put aside her official duties for at least a month as she recovers from a cerebral hematoma that was probably caused by a fall she suffered in August.
The news, which came after a near 10-hour blackout of information by the government, has sent candidates running in congressional races later this month scrambling to change their campaign plans and strategies. Hardest hit will be the candidates from the ruling Victory Front (FPV) bloc because they will not have Fernández de Kirchner on the campaign trail with them.
Sergio Massa, who was Fernandez de Kirchner’s former Cabinet chief before distancing himself from her, is the favorite to win in the strategic Buenos Aires province, which accounts for 37 percent of the national vote. On Saturday he wished her “a speedy recovery” on his Twitter account.
Just hours before the announcement, a prerecorded interview with Fernández de Kirchner was broadcast on television in which she attacks Massa.
“I wish people wouldn’t disguise themselves in order to just win votes by saying ‘I will correct the bad and keep the good’,” she said in reference to Massa’s electoral platform slogan. “If Massa is not with the opposition, then I am the Mona Lisa.”
Chronic subdural hematoma is a blood clot on the brain’s surface beneath its outer covering
With Fernández de Kirchner out of the picture for now, Massa will be able to launch an offensive against government policies without having to personally attack her. In an interview with Buenos Aires daily La Nación, a member of Massa’s team said their campaign would remain “active but there won’t be so many stops in the interior of the province.”
Opposition leaders have opted to send get-well messages to the president and have avoided criticizing the way the government kept Argentineans in the dark about her health for nearly 10 hours after she was rushed to the hospital.
While the Casa Rosada presidential palace had pledged more transparency, it wasn’t known until Saturday night that Fernández de Kirchner, 60, had suffered a fall and hit her head on August 11 – the day after voters handed her bloc the worst results in a decade in primary elections.
La Nación reported on Monday that the accident in fact occurred on August 9, on the stairwell of the presidential plane Tango 1 while she was traveling from Buenos Aires to Río Gallegos.
It was also unknown until this weekend that at the time the president had been taken to the hospital where a head scan was performed but doctors detected normal results.
When Fernández de Kirchner was admitted to the Favaloro Foundation Hospital in Buenos Aires Saturday, Casa Rosado explained that it was a routine checkup when in fact she had been suffering from an irregular heartbeat and severe headaches.
It wasn’t until shortly before 10pm that Communication Secretary Alfredo Scoccimarro read a statement on television saying that the president had suffered “a cranial trauma” on August 11 but didn’t specify the causes.
A medical report read on air by Scoccimarro diagnosed that the president had a “chronic subdural hematoma,” which is a blood clot on the brain's surface beneath its outer covering, which is called the dura.
Reabsorption doesn’t appear to be the solution”
Common symptoms related to this condition are weakness of the legs and arms and convulsions, according to neurologist Conrado Estol, who was consulted by the magazine Perfil.
While the specialists at Favaloro Foundation Hospital have recommended one month of inactivity, the question remains whether the blood clot will go away on its own or whether an operation will have to be performed to drain it.
Argentinean neurologist Gabriel Persi explained that in the majority of cases subdural hematomas go away on their own with a lot of rest. However, another specialist, Ignacio Previgliano told La Nación that “generally, the recommendation is surgery except if it is very small.”
“Unless I have the scan results, we can’t say how big it is,” Previgliano said. “But according to the presidential press statement, two-and-a-half months have passed since the patient hit her head. Reabsorption doesn’t appear to be the solution.”
On Monday, Clarín reported on its website that the president had suffered more migraines over the past few days and was expected to be taken back to the Favaloro Foundation Hospital, where she was first examined on Saturday.
As Fernández de Kirchner was resting at her presidential home, Los Olivos, the Argentinean press began speculating whether her controversial vice president, Amado Boudou, will assume official duties as the Constitution stipulates. As of Monday, there was no word whether Boudou, who cut short an official visit to France after Fernández de Kirchner was hospitalized, will become acting president.
Since last year, Boudou has been under court investigation for alleged money laundering and illegal enrichment investigations stemming from a purported financial transaction involving the sale of a printing company.
The 49-year-old became vice presidential running mate in 2011 when Fernández de Kirchner won her second term. As the allegations against Boudou grew as soon as he took office, it was believed that the president was ready to dump him but instead she attacked the prosecutors and judge investigating him.
It won’t be the first time that Fernández de Kirchner has been forced to temporarily step aside for health reasons. On January 4, 2012 she underwent a three-and-a-half hour operation to remove her thyroid, after doctors said they detected cancer in the gland. A few days later doctors discared their original diagnosis.