Argentina's president emerged from mourning Monday vowing to honor the memory of her husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, as she leads the country.
Cristina Fernandez spoke to the nation for the first time since Wednesday's heart attack death of Kirchner, a popular former president who was her closest ally and confidant in what many people viewed as a virtual joint presidency.
"It's the greatest sadness I've had in my life. It's the loss of the man who was my companion of 35 years, the companion of my life, of fights, of ideals ... a part of me has gone with him," she said, her voice breaking repeatedly.
Recalling her husband's body lying in state at the presidential palace, she thanked "all the men and women who mobilized, who wanted to see him, who wanted to say farewell, who prayed for him, who cried for him."
Fernandez said she would carry on in pursuing the couple's left-of-center economic and social policies.
"I want to tell all the Argentines that I have always felt a great sense of responsibility. On me depends the future of all the Argentines. Since this Wednesday, in addition to this responsibility I feel another: that of honoring his mandate and doing honor to his government, which transformed and changed the country. Many thanks to everyone for everything," she concluded between tears.
Supporters already are pushing Fernandez to run for re-election next year in the presidential race that Kirchner had talked about entering himself.
A poll taken the day after Kirchner's death suggests a big potential boost for the widow: The percentage of people who said they would vote for her in 2011 jumped from 30 percent to 44.5 percent, according to telephone poll of 1,000 people in metropolitan Buenos Aires, where most Argentines live.
None of a half-dozen potential rivals got more than 12 percent in the poll. The poll had error margin of plus or minus three percentage points.