Argentinian president's surgery for thyroid cancer believed successful


PILAR, BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s popular president, Cristina Fernández, was successfully operated on for thyroid cancer yesterday, local media said without providing any further details.

The reports, however, were not yet confirmed by the government. The presidential spokesman was expected to address reporters outside the Austral Hospital where Ms Fernández underwent surgery in Pilar, some 45km (28 miles) north of the capital, Buenos Aires.

Last week, the government announced her diagnosis of papillary carcinoma, detected during a routine medical check-up just before Christmas but said there was no sign it had spread.

The cancer scare came just months after she was re-elected to a second four-year term. Doctors have said the 58-year-old president has a better than 90 per cent chance of recovery.

Ms Fernández’s already high approval ratings could get an extra lift from public sympathy over her illness as they did following the death late in 2010 of her husband and predecessor as president, Néstor Kirchner.

The news of her illness shook a country in which Eva Perón, the wife of former leader Juan Perón, has been revered for decades after dying of cancer at 33. Like “Evita”, Ms Fernández is loved for her efforts for Argentina’s poor.

The operation began at about 8.20am local time. Holding signs reading “Strength Cristina”, dozens of supporters, who rallied around after Kirchner’s death, gathered outside the hospital.

“We started a vigil since yesterday in hopes that everything goes well. We’re supporting our president. We’re rallying behind her,” said Rosa Aguirre (50), a homemaker. Vice-President Amado Boudou, the former economy minister and a loyal Fernández aide, assumed presidency during her 20-day absence.

Widely popular among Argentines who benefit from her generous welfare spending, the president often gets bad marks from business leaders who say her interventions frighten off investment.

She is the latest of several left-leaning Latin American leaders to have cancer. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who underwent chemotherapy last year, speculated that the US “empire” may have developed a way to give the illness to its political rivals.

Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo’s lymphatic cancer is in remission and former Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is being successfully treated for a tumour on his larynx.

A talented orator fond of glamorous clothes, high heels and make-up, Ms Fernández still wears black as she mourns Kirchner. Many thought his death spelled the end of the couple’s idiosyncratic blend of state intervention, nationalist rhetoric and championing of human rights. But Ms Fernández won re-election in a landslide in October, helped by brisk economic growth fuelled in part by hefty grain export revenues. – (Reuters)