Mystery over 'missing' Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
Argentinian president not been seen in public for 38 days, fanning health rumours
Associated Press in Buenos Aires
A puzzling silence has descended around President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
It has been 38 days since she last spoke in public. And she hasn't posted any messages to Twitter since December 13, when she fired off a typical volley of 20 tweets.
That has been feeding speculation in Argentina about her health in the wake of surgery in October, and questions about who is running the country.
"She's decided to stay away from her duties in power," opposition Senator Gabriela Michetti said. "She's suffering from fragility and weakness. Maybe she's still determining the course, but for a while she's been uncomfortable in her role as president."
Members of Fernandez's administration dismiss the questions, saying she's busy at work. Defence Minister Agustin Rossi said opposition criticism made him "laugh hard" because "the president is totally in command".
But her aides have not explained why she has stayed out of the public eye, though cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich recently said she "is also a human being and needs rest" because "she still in the process of recovering her full health".
Fernandez was long known for nearly daily speeches and constant tweets. But she was silenced for six weeks late last year when she underwent surgery to remove a blood clot.
Since her return, Fernandez has tried to reinvent her image, putting aside the all-black wardrobe she wore for three years as a sign of mourning for her late husband, Nestor Kirchner.
Economy Minister Axel Kicillof has said Fernandez continues to have final say on all decisions and recently dismissed rumours of growing power struggles in her administration that were fed by a series of contradictory statements by ministers.
Kicillof complained of a "soap opera being created" by the media to try to destabilise the government. "They spend so much ink and they try to generate tensions, frictions," he said.
Fernandez made her last public appearance on December 10. Three days later, she made her last comments on Twitter criticising a protest by police.