Cristina Fernández's health.
A political headache.
NEWS from Argentina can resemble a David Lynch film: the more you learn, the less you fathom. In the past year alone the government signed a pact with Iran to investigate a bombing in 1994 of a Jewish centre which the Iranians were suspected of executing, invited tax evaders to buy financial instruments with preferential rates of return, and puffed up growth rates so much it may have to shell out billions of dollars in GDP-linked securities.
Last weekend’s goings-on are no less bizarre. On October 5th the president, Cristina Fernández was rushed to hospital on account of an irregular heartbeat. On arrival the 60-year-old complained of a severe headache. Neurological tests revealed that Ms Fernández was suffering from a subdural hematoma, an accumulation of blood between the tissues surrounding the brain.
Such internal bleeding can be caused by trauma. Following her diagnosis, the president’s press secretary casually explained that on August 12th, the day after Ms Fernández's Front for Victory (FPV) party was drubbed in nationwide legislative primaries, she fell and hit her head. The president was briefly hospitalised but tests concluded that she was fine. The public were never informed.
That head bump is now blamed for triggering the hematoma. Doctors have ordered Ms Fernández to rest for one month. The vice-president, Amado Boudou, was immediately called back from an official visit to Brazil but he has yet formally to assume presidential duties.
Convalescence would put Ms Fernández out of action until after the midterm elections on October 27th. The results of the August primaries as well as recent polls have been boding ill for the FPV, which may be in for its worst-ever showing. It is far from assured that Ms Fernández's health shock will win her any sympathy votes.
After the sudden death of her husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, in October 2010 her popularity shot up from a meagre 36% to 55% in a month, according to Poliarquia, a pollster. The widow, dressed in black ever since, rode the sympathy wave to re-election with an unprecedented 54% of the vote a year later.
This time may be different, however. For a start, Mr Boudou is not the ideal standard-bearer. Last year he faced allegations of illegal enrichment and influence-peddling. Prosecutors ultimately failed to provide convincing evidence of wrongdoing, but Argentines may be reminded of the imbroglio now that Mr Boudou will once again come into the spotlight.
More important, perhaps, the hematoma is Ms Fernández’s second big health scare in less than a year. Last December she underwent surgery to remove a suspected tumour. This ultimately proved to be healthy tissue but the president was still unable to work for 20 days. All this risks making her appear fragile—and lead Argentines to ask searching questions about her physical ability to govern, just as they have been about her political capacity to do so.