November 18, 2013 / 9:47 PM / in 4 years

Argentina's Fernandez resumes work after surgery

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentine President Cristina Fernandez resumed her duties on Monday and appeared for the first time on television after undergoing brain surgery five weeks ago.

The 60-year-old Peronist leader had an operation on October 8 to remove blood that had pooled on the surface of her brain after falling and bumping her head. She had not made an official public appearance or speech since then, leaving a five-week political vacuum in Latin America’s third biggest 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 also displayed an oversized stuffed black-and-white penguin, which she said was another gift. For a moment she 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.

The president’s 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 yet been cleared for air travel and is scheduled for another medical check-up on December 9.

As she enters the final two years of her second term, Fernandez faces a possible new round of protests from farmers who say her policies hurt their profits. High inflation, clocked by private analysts at 25 percent, rising crime, an over-valued currency and dwindling foreign reserves are also concerns.

Fernandez’s supporters suffered heavy losses in mid-term elections on October 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.

Additional reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Philip Barbara, Sandra Maler and Mohammad Zargham

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