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Argentina Replaces Economy Minister, Central Bank President

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Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner changed her Economy Minister and Central Bank President today on her first day back to work following head surgery on Oct. 8.

Deputy Economy Minister Axel Kicillof will replace Hernan Lorenzino as minister while Carlos Fabrega will become the new central bank chief in place of Mercedes Marco del Pont, according to a statement read by presidential spokesman Alfredo Scoccimarro. Fernandez also named Jorge Capitanich, the governor of Chaco province, her new Cabinet Chief.

Fernandez, 60, reappeared today in a pre-recorded video to thank Argentines for their support during her medical leave which she described as “very difficult.” Doctors discovered a blood clot near her brain during a routine heart exam and decided to operate, Fernandez said.

While Argentina posted 8.3 percent economic growth in the second quarter from a year earlier, the nation has an estimated annual inflation rate of about 26 percent and has lost $11 billion of international reserves this year. Central bank reserves fell to $32.3 billion today, the lowest since Jan. 2, 2007.

Fernandez’s government has also struggled to close a widening gap between the official exchange rate of 6 pesos per dollar and a black market where Argentines pay as much as 9.87 to obtain foreign currency due to restrictions imposed since her re-election in 2011.

During her convalescence, Fernandez missed Oct. 27 congressional elections in which her ruling alliance garnered just 33 percent of the votes nationwide and her main candidate in the province of Buenos Aires lost by 12 percentage points. While her alliance kept their hold on Congress, the results ended any hopes she may have had of seeking a third consecutive term when her current period ends in 2015.

Lorenzino, who had been Economy Minister since 2011, will head a newly created entity called the Executive Restructuring Unit to oversee attempts at resolving the nation’s legal conflict with holdout creditors, according to the statement.

Del Pont held the post of central bank president since 2010. Fabrega was previously head of the state-run bank Banco de la Nacion Argentina. Fernandez also named Carlos Casamiquela as the new Agriculture Minister.

To contact the reporter on this story: Camila Russo in Buenos Aires at crusso15@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Papadopoulos at papadopoulos@bloomberg.net

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