In accordance with the Latin tradition of distorting democracy, President Mauricio Macri’s administration is increasingly being run by a “camarilla” – a network of power brokers. Having met the Henchman, the Puppet and the PA, Jack Nott-Bower identifies the rest of Argentina’s private Cabinet
The Technician: Fabián ‘Pepín’ Rodríguez Simón
An expert in complex litigation, Fabián Rodríguez – alias “Pepín” – is one of Macri’s most efficient attorneys. He’s also thought to be behind the mysterious private nightclub in Buenos Aires that served as the ‘bunker’ for Macri’s Republican Proposal (PRO) party, known as the Pepicles Foundation.
When the President came under investigation as a result of the Panama Papers in April, it was Pepín – a known specialist in offshore finance – that Macri chose to represent him. His influence dates from the very start of Macri’s administration as the legal brain behind the President’s controversial decision to appoint two Supreme Court judges – Horacio Rosatti and Carlos Rosenkrantz – via decree in December.
A representative in the Parliament of Latin America’s Mercosur trade bloc (Parlasur), and the author of a book on the region-wide ‘tequila effect’ of Mexico’s 1994 economic crisis, Pepín reportedly has the admiration of Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña. He maintains close relations with other secret Cabinet members Niki Caputo and José Torrello, along with another of Macri’s former school friends from Cardenal Newman – Legal and Technical Secretary, Pablo Clusellas.
Pepín is also a key legal advisor to Grupo Clarín, Argentina’s dominant media conglomerate, which is tightly aligned with Macri. He battled against ex-President Cristina Fernández’s 2013 Media Law – designed to reduce Clarín’s monopoly. Macri slashed the law via decree in December.
Pepín is a divisive figure within the PRO, but he is key to Macri’s survival.
The Media Mogul: Héctor Magnetto
As the President and CEO of Grupo Clarín, Héctor Magnetto is one of the most powerful media executives in the Southern Cone, with a strong capacity to influence Macri.
In May, Magnetto was selected by independent pro-democracy watchdog Freedom House for its Freedom of Expression Award in recognition of his defiance against the aggressive media controls of Cristina Fernández.
However, Magnetto also appears in a less celebrated listing: the Panama Papers. And Grupo Clarín is seen to receive beneficial treatment from Macri in return for its favorable coverage.
Magnetto’s multiple connections include privileged access to other business magnates via the influential Association of Argentine Businessmen (AEA) and a number of government agency officials with past ties to Clarín, such as the head of the Sustainability Guarantee Fund at Argentina’s social insurance agency – ANSES.
The Spy: Gustavo Arribas – ‘Señor 5’
Lurking in the backrooms of Boca Juniors Football Club since the 1990s, Gustavo Arribas was Macri’s former supervisor for drawing up player contracts. A clerk by profession, he went on to team up with FIFA agents 10 years ago to create his own transfers business, enriching himself in the process.
Arribas was introduced to Macri by the Cardenal Newman old boys club (including Niki Caputo, José Torello and Pablo Clusellas) in the 1980s. With no detectable experience in security espionage, he is now head of the Federal Intelligence Agency, a position better known by its code name, “Señor 5”.
Macri’s new spy chief is in a position to snoop in all areas given his official duty to protect national defense and internal security.
But there’s more to his mission. Like Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra – a former President of Telecom Argentina – Arribas has experience in business intelligence. That could be a useful skill for dampening the influence of Peronist commercial elites.
For Part I of Macri’s Secret Cabinet, click here.
For Part II of Macri’s Secret Cabinet, click here.
The author is Jack Nott-Bower, Latin America Analyst at West Sands Advisory Limited. A Spanish speaker, Jack has lived in Mexico and traveled through the Americas. His analysis focuses on political, criminal and governance dynamics throughout the region. West Sands Advisory Limited is a business intelligence, investigations and political advisory firm that has, since 2006, helped clients identify opportunities and reduce risk in emerging and frontier markets http://www.westsandsadvisory.com.