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Argentina's Kirchner back at helm after head surgery


Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner was back at work Monday after a six-week medical leave following surgery for a blood clot on her brain.

Kirchner, 60, "is carrying out her duties at the Olivos (presidential) residence" on Buenos Aires' north end, the government said on its website.

She held meetings with Vice President Amado Boudou, who stood in for her leading the administration until Monday.

Local media have speculated that her return to work might bring new economic measures and a cabinet reshuffle, following the poor performance of her wing of the ruling Peronist party in October 27 elections.

Doctors performed surgery on Argentina's first democratically elected woman president on October 8 to remove a blood clot that had developed after she struck her head several months ago during a fall.

Kirchner has seen her approval rating slide to about 30 percent since she was swept back into office for a second term in 2011. Her term ends in 2015.

Kirchner's low approval rating has had a bit of a boost since her illness and surgery.

Officials however shrugged off rumors that she might plan to leave power.

"There is not going to be any transition, and it is irresponsible to say such things," lawmaker and supporter Jorge Recalde told Radio Del Plata.

Center-left Kirchner, a lawyer by trade, has angered Argentina's business class through her failure to control inflation, her protectionist economics, import restrictions, the nationalization of companies such as energy giant YPF, and her foreign exchange controls.

Critics are also skeptical of her foreign policy alignment with anti-Western governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

But the poor revere the president for her fight against poverty, generous social welfare programs and improved retirement pensions, even though Argentina's economy is sluggish and violent crime is on the rise.

Argentina is still one of the world's agricultural powerhouses, producing and exporting massive amounts of soy, wheat and meat.

Kirchner followed her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, as Argentina's president. Her husband was in office from 2003-2007.