President_s ailment fuels speculation


Argentina_s political system was hit by uncertainty on Sunday after the disclosure that President Cristina Fern__ndez de Kirchner had sustained a head injury more than seven weeks ago and was told by neurologists over the weekend to rest for a month while receiving treatment for chronic bleeding near her brain.

Mrs. Kirchner, 60, remained in the presidential residence in Buenos Aires on Sunday after her spokesman, Alfredo Scoccimarro, revealed on Saturday night that she suffered a _skull trauma_ on Aug. 12. He said doctors had found an accumulation of blood between her brain and her skull after she complained of head pain during an exam Saturday for an abnormal heart rhythm.

The revelation of Mrs. Kirchner_s head injury, the latest in a series of health issues since her election as president in 2007, prompted declarations of support from various political figures in Argentina, as well as criticism from detractors over how the government has handled information about her health.

_Secrecy breeds suspicion,_ said Joaqu__n Morales Sol__, a prominent political commentator, in a column in the newspaper La Naci__n questioning why some details of her medical condition were being revealed now, nearly two months after an apparently serious injury, and what remains to be discovered about the president_s health.

Mr. Morales Sol__ also raised doubts about Argentina_s vice president, Amado Boudou, calling his appointment by the president _an error that now takes on a new dimension._ Mr. Boudou, 50, is dealing with a judicial investigation on charges of illegal enrichment and money laundering and could be asked by Mrs. Kirchner to assume presidential duties as she convalesces.

Still, it was not yet clear on Sunday whether Mrs. Kirchner planned to formally transfer duties to Mr. Boudou, as she did for several weeks in 2012 when she was given an incorrect diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Mr. Scoccimarro, her spokesman, did not specify whether or how she planned to follow her doctors_ advice.

_We have to see how this develops,_ said Sergio Berensztein, a political consultant in Buenos Aires, describing Mr. Boudou as _an isolated figure tainted by corruption allegations._ If he steps in, Mr. Berensztein said, _it undoubtedly provokes uncertainty._

In addition to the cancer scare and the head injury, Mrs. Kirchner_s health problems while president have included a diagnosis of dehydration in 2009, causing her to postpone a trip to Cuba and Venezuela; low blood pressure on several occasions, requiring short periods of rest; and another head injury in June 2011, involving a fall and a wound to her scalp.

While details about her latest injury remained sparse, T__lam, Argentina_s official news agency, said the bleeding in Mrs. Kirchner_s head could be dealt with in a _very low-risk_ operation, citing a neurosurgeon. T__lam also said her diagnosis differed from that of a stroke, a serious medical condition in which the brain_s blood supply is cut off.

The disclosure of Mrs. Kirchner_s injury was being absorbed in a political culture characterized by tension and insults between her government and her critics. Marcelo Blanco, 52, an antiques trader, said influential news media organizations at odds with Mrs. Kirchner would seize on the situation.

_The media will try to magnify this, but even if her illness is long term, it won_t stymie the continuation of the model,_ Mr. Blanco said, referring to _Kirchnerismo,_ the movement put in motion by Mrs. Kirchner and her husband, N__stor Kirchner, who died in 2010.

_It_s a strong and capable political movement that I_m sure will win in 2015,_ when the law will not allow Mrs. Kirchner to run for re-election, Mr. Blanco said.

New York Times | By SIMON ROMERO and JONATHAN GILBERT

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