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Secrecy envelopes Argentine President Fernandez's recovery

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina The doctors who removed a blood clot from the brain of Argentina's president said Wednesday that she's improving "without complications."

But their terse report gave no information suggesting how long the government will be without its charismatic leader in charge.

Their three-sentence report said Cristina Fernandez, 60," her vital signs are "normal," her spirits are "very good" and she'll begin eating later Wednesday.

Her spokesman Alfredo Scoccimarro appeared briefly before a crowd outside her hospital to announce the doctors' report, adding only that she had slept well and "sends a big kiss to all the Argentines." And that was it.

The only government official authorized to release details about her condition left without taking questions.

The lack of details frustrated Argentines such as Fernando Ballester, a 40-year-old office administrator.

"She has the obligation to inform us. The president's health is a matter of state," he said.

"The country can't function without Cristina," he said. "Our political system is focused on the presidency, and especially the president we have now, who makes all the decisions."

Laboratory worker Silvina Caceres agreed: "It's not OK that the president of the republic doesn't keep the people informed about her health. Her life is not private ... If not, all she feeds to the people is paranoia."

Caceres was among many who are convinced Fernandez will keep working behind the scenes.

"She keeps governing from the clinic," she said.

Even Vice President Amado Boudou, nominally in charge of the executive branch while she recuperates, suggested as much in a speech on Wednesday, saying that "to Cristina, her country is more important than her own health!"

Brain surgeons not involved in Fernandez's surgery consulted by The Associated Press say there's no reason to think that this surgery could have lasting complications, but they say the risks increase if she tries to go back to work too soon.

They also differ widely on how long patients generally need to recuperate — the Argentines consulted said she could be out from 30 to even 90 days, while U.S. experts said she could be back to work in a week.

A member of the surgical team, Dr. Pablo Rubino, suggested Wednesday that Argentines have little need to worry, saying "once she's completely recovered, there won't be any problem. She'll be able to do any sort of activity."

But Rubino, the chief of vascular surgery at the Fundacion Favaloro, where Fernandez remained in intensive therapy, stressed that confidentiality vows prevent her doctors from saying how long she might need to recover.

"We can't enter into details, but the information was absolutely faithful. The communications are absolutely accurate," Rubino said. Pressed by a government radio host to say whether she could be out for a month, he said "some need less, some need more."

Argentina's looming challenges include the Oct. 27 congressional elections, in which the ruling party now lacks its top campaigner.

Another devastating default became more likely this week when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Argentina's initial appeal in its debt fight.

The economy has slowed, the currency is losing value and inflation is soaring.

Ruling party lawmakers were making the best of it, debating the 2014 budget Wednesday.

But many have questioned Boudou's leadership because of the corruption investigations he faces, and the presidency didn't make public the formal transfer-of-power document that usually indicates how long a president will need to be replaced.

"It's like we're on stand-by," Caceres said. "Nothing important is going to happen until she takes the reins again."

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