After more than a month out the limelight, Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner reappeared in public on Wednesday to announce a special economic assistance program designed to help students from the ages of 18 to 24.
Her national address, which was carried live on television, tempered rumors about the 60-year-old leader’s health following the emergency surgery she underwent in October to remove a blood clot near the brain.
Members of her coalition party’s powerful youth wing, La Campora, an organization that is led by her son Máximo Kirchner, cheered her on with a popular Peronist song and occasionally interrupting her address with applause.
Fernández de Kirchner has come under attack for using air time during peak hours for her political speeches. But on Wednesday, she fired back at her critics, including the press. “I hope tomorrow no one will criticize this national broadcast, because after such much demand for my presence (…). I remember when they would publish polls saying that people would switch channels when I would come on the air – or maybe they would lie about it, or they are lying now, or they just simply lie all the time.”
Nevertheless, Fernández de Kirchner made no mention of any of the current problems facing Argentina such as soaring inflation or the recent devaluation of the peso.
“I read this morning (…) the newspapers said that Cristina was going to reappear. Hebe, Estela, what is the opposite of reappearing? Disappearing?” she asked rhetorically addressing Hebe de Bonafini and Estela de Carlotto, both presidents of two associations dedicated to the missing victims of the Argentinean Dirty War period (1976-83).
“How do the psychiatrists and psychologists call it, a subliminal or an abortive action? I think in the long run we are not connected to disappearances.”
Until Wednesday, Fernández de Kirchner had been out of the public’s eye for 34 days, fueling speculation that she had a relapse after her emergency surgery. The only photographs taken of the president during this period showed her arriving at the Casa Rosada presidential palace or her Olivos official residence.
It was an unusual absence given that the Argentinean president frequently appears in public to address her supporters at inaugurations of projects or special events.
After Wednesday’s speech, Fernández de Kirchner spoke to some Campora members at Casa Rosada where she confirmed that she will attend the upcoming summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) to be held in Havana, and joked about speculation that she would not be present.
“They wanted to create a sensation that I am no longer useful.”