Tuesday, July 23, 2024

ARGENTINA | 13-12-2023 15:34

Santiago Caputo: the silent power behind Milei’s throne

Political consultant – the nephew of businessman Nicky Caputo and distant relative of Economy Minister Luis Caputo – is one of President Milei’s closest advisors. And his tattoos are drawing attention in Russia.

The nephew of the businessman Nicky Caputo and a specialist in political communication, Santiago Caputo is a key figure in the new government.

A key advisor to Argentina’s new president, Caputo has not yet made a significant public appearance. But he is taking over key government areas concentrating an important slice of the budget, according to government sources.

Milei’s new government had barely started when Caputo imposed  Belén Stettler, an unknown professional in the national media world, as Media Secretary. 

Beyond any formalities, Caputo also concentrates the decision-making concerning the state media (Télam, Canal 7 and Radio Nacional).

While he advances in different state areas, one Caputo appointment has shaken up libertarians: the designation of  Roberto ‘Mono’ di Lorenzo, who performed the same role for Matías Tombolini, the Trade secretary of the previous government, as Stettler’s new cabinet chief.

Caputo has also been behind the awarding of a key YPF post to his confidant Guillermo Garat, a trainee of Ecuadorean spin doctor Jaime Durán Barba in political campaigning like himself.

Garat will manage the area of Communication and Marketing for YPF with multi-million funding.

Young Caputo is also seeking to lay his hands on Nación Seguros, Banco Nación’s insurance company, which is the most extensive in the country. He will be accompanied in this venture by the Neuss brothers, businessmen denounced for the scandalous privatisation of the radio spectrum with Thales Spectrum under the 1989-1999 Carlos Menem Presidency.


Close encounters

Santiago, 38, is one of Milei’s greatest confidants, widely defined as "a great friend" of the libertarian. 

The relationship between Caputo and Milei began via libertarian mayoral candidate Ramiro Marra, who has known the political consultant since their days as teenagers at the Manuel Belgrano School in Belgrano. Caputo, who later changed schools, is two years younger than Marra but they get on well.

Milei listens to him because he knows that he is an experienced consultant. Caputo worked for several years in Durán Barba’s team from the early days of Mauricio Macri’s political career. There he got to know Santiago Nieto and Roberto Zapata, the two best-known partners of the PRO guru and specialists in public opinion.

The pace of work was so intense and exciting that Caputo decided to drop out of university in order to dedicate himself to political consultancy. 

Although he afterwards left Durán Barba, he never abandoned politics. In recent years he has advised candidates and businesses in Chile, Uruguay and El Salvador.

His last job was in Paraguay, where he worked with the presidential campaign of the Liberal Party.


Russian tats

Overseas, Caputo has recently drawn attention far away in the east after press in Moscow got wind of his tattoos – which are allegedly inspired by jailed members of the Russian mafia.

Presidential adviser Santiago Caputo has earned a place in the Moscow press because of his tattoos of the Russian mafia on one arm.

"He rarely allows himself to be photographed in public," reported the RT website, which described some of the markings on Caputo's skin.

The site, citing original reporting by Noticias journalist Rodis Recalt, notes that the presidential adviser "has a body covered with Russian tattoos, which he took from a book given to him by a friend."

The inkings are inspired by marks from the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia, a work divided into three volumes that compiles "hundreds of photos of Russian mafia prisoners with an explanation of each tattoo."

On his right arm "he has an anti-communist proclamation tattooed in Russian, and also other drawings that represent a status in that criminal organisation, something that could cause him problems if he visits Moscow."

It also notes that alleged photos of Caputo's bare arms includes a tattoo shows an eight-pointed star – a notorious symbol used by some high-ranking Russian criminals.


Family ties

Santiago is the son of Claudio Caputo, the second cousin of the new Economy minister. He is also a distant relative of Dante Caputo, who was Raúl Alfonsín’s foreign minister.

"But they are different branches," they repeat.

Sources say his friends only lose their cool when any reference is made to Santiago’s relationship to Nicolás Caputo, Macri’s close friend, and current Economy Minister Luis ‘Toto’ Caputo.

"They are distant relatives with practically no links. They might have spoken to each other around three times in the last six years at most,” sources told the Noticias Argentinas news agency this week.

No doubt there will be plenty more opportunities now to do so.



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