LATIN AMERICA

Argentinean president’s silence prompts rumors about her health

Fernández de Kirchner has not given a speech in 36 days

Cristina Fernández during the 30th anniversary of the return of democracy to Argentina.
Cristina Fernández during the 30th anniversary of the return of democracy to Argentina.JUAN MABROMATA / AFP

She used to be seen almost daily on TV presiding over public events. Her frequent avalanches of tweets were reported in the press, as she used her account on the micro-blogging site to do battle with her political opponents and critics. But since undergoing surgery in October to remove a blood clot from her brain, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been out of the limelight — even her Twitter feed has gone silent.

Wednesday marked the 36th day since Fernández de Kirchner last spoke in public — her longest absence (without including the more than a month while she recovered from surgery) since coming to office six years ago. The president’s silence has drawn concerns from both her Kirchnerite faction supporters and critics, who believe that the government should be upfront about her condition.

Fernández de Kirchner’s doctors told her to get a lot of rest and avoid stress following her surgery. She took a two-week vacation over the Christmas holidays and retreated to her home in Santa Cruz province, while still holding meetings, according to her advisors.

She is going to speak and appear in public when the time is right,” he said

What she hasn’t done, however, is appear in public. The only photos that have circulated recently show her entering and leaving the Casa Rosada presidential palace and her official Olivos residence.

Some analysts believe that Fernández de Kirchner is slowly withdrawing from the frontline as part of a strategy to lay low as she approaches the final stretch of her second term, which ends on December 10, 2015. Her Victory Front (FpV) coalition garnered poor results during the last local legislative elections, held in October. Some believe that the lack of support for her party will prevent her from trying to change the Constitution so that she can seek a third term. Presidents in Argentina can currently only serve two.

At the same time, Argentina’s economy is in a bad way. The annual inflation rate rose sharply over a six-month period, standing at 26.8 percent at the end of November — up from 20.8 percent in May — which is the highest in the 10 years since the Kirchnerites have been in government.

Trying to head off speculation about her health, Óscar Parrilli, the president’s chief of staff, said in a radio interview last Friday that the leader is “perfectly fine” and is continuing to meet with her staff. “There is no reason for her to make any statements. She is going to speak and appear in public when the time is right,” he said.

Fernández de Kirchner's last speech took place in December to mark the 30th anniversary of the return of democracy to Argentina. In her remarks, she criticized police officers who went on strike in 20 provinces over pay, which caused violent lootings in many areas and left 14 people dead.

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