By Hugh Bronstein and Jorge Otaola
BUENOS AIRES Nov 18 Argentine President
Cristina Fernandez burst back on the scene on Monday after a
five-week absence following surgery to treat a head injury,
naming as economy minister the government's point man in its
2012 seizure of the country's biggest oil company.
The promotion of leftist economist Axel Kicillof, who had
been deputy economy minister, was announced by a government
spokesman in a televised address minutes after Fernandez
appeared on TV for the first time since early October.
Kicillof, a charismatic and polarizing figure, steered the
administration's expropriation of a controlling stake in energy
company YPF from its former parent company, Spain's
The takeover enraged Argentina's trading partners from the
European Union, but was welcomed by many Argentines as a defense
of national strategic interests.
Known for his fiery speeches in defense of Fernandez's
interventionist policies, Kicillof spent most of his career in
academia, giving classes and writing about the theories of
economists such as John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx.
He replaces Hernan Lorenzino, who was named ambassador to
the European Union.
Fernandez had an operation on Oct. 8 to remove blood that
had pooled on the surface of her brain after she fell and bumped
her head. Her absence until earlier Monday evening had left a
five-week political vacuum in Latin America's No. 3 economy.
"Thank you ... to the thousands of Argentines who have been
praying for me," a smiling Fernandez said in a televised
address. Sitting on a sofa, she appeared healthy. On a table was
a vase of red roses she said had been sent by a well-wisher.
She briefly held a small white dog she said was sent to her
by one of the brothers of Hugo Chavez, the late left-wing leader
of Venezuela and a political ally of Fernandez.
Her absence had been conspicuous in a country accustomed to
her centralized leadership style and frequent speeches.
Her office said her agenda on Monday was confined to
meetings with senior officials. She has not been cleared for air
travel and is scheduled for another medical checkup on Dec. 9.
Also on Monday, Argentina designated Carlos Fabrega as the
country's new central bank chief, replacing Mercedes Marcó del
Pont, and Carlos Casamiquela as agriculture minister, replacing
Chaco provincial Governor Jorge Capitanich will replace Juan
Manuel Abal Medina as Cabinet chief. The newly named officials
are scheduled to be sworn in on Wednesday.
APPOINTMENT 'WON'T BE WELCOMED BY MARKETS'
As she enters the final two years of her second term,
Fernandez faces possible new protests from farmers who say her
policies hurt their profits. High inflation, estimated by
private analysts at 25 percent, rising crime, an overvalued
currency and dwindling foreign reserves are also concerns.
Fernandez's supporters suffered heavy losses in
congressional elections on Oct. 27 that ended her chances of
securing a change to the constitution that would have enabled
her to run for a third term in 2015.
"The appointment of Kicillof is not going to be welcomed by
the markets," said Ignacio Labaqui, local analyst for New
York-based consultancy Medley Global Advisors.
"It confirms that government policy will not be altered by
the results of the midterm election," he said. "It increases the
likelihood of a dual exchange-rate scheme, which Kicillof has
been advocating, and we can expect that the central bank will
continue to be the main source of financing for the Treasury."
Despite his youthful appearance - local media sometimes make
as much of his sideburns as of his policymaking - Kicillof is
an old-school leftist who shuns the tenets of 21st century
globalism and believes Argentina must find its own way to