Ex-president Fernando de la Rúa, 81, in hospital since New Year’s Day with acute respiratory and cardiac problems, remained in serious condition this week although a bulletin from the Pilar hospital he was admitted to expressed cautious optimism, describing the patient as "evolving slowly but favourably.”
But other details from the report were more worrying. Every attempt to take De la Rúa off his iron lung this week had failed, leading doctors to supplement artificial respiration with a tracheotomy.
Upon entering hospital at the start of this year, De la Rúa was immediately subjected to coronary angioplasty with a stent inserted into his heart, remaining in intensive care ever since.
De la Rúa already experienced a health scare towards the end of his 1999-2001 presidency but his heart problems have intensified since 2014 when he received his first stent.
The veteran Radical has largely kept out of political life since the disastrous end of his presidency halfway through his first term when he fled the Casa Rosada in a helicopter amid a general institutional and economic meltdown. But he has openly backed Mauricio Macri’s centre-right administration as Argentina’s first non-Peronist presidency since his own at the turn of the millennium, especially since the Radicals form part of Macri’s Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition while De la Rúa has always aligned with the conservative wing of that party.
His last public appearance was at the official reception for last year’s G20 Leaders’ Summit while more recently he was one 20 Latin American conservative
ex-presidents signing a letter questioning the cautious approach of Pope Francis to the situation in Venezuela and Nicaragua.