Luis Caputo has a lot of work to do, and if his supporters are to be believed, he is exactly the man for it, the ‘Messi of finance’. But critics are horrified.
Christophe Goerke from Buenos Aires
Maybe we should first respect Louis Caputo. The former banker is the new economy minister of Argentina, a country in the midst of a full-blown economic crisis: inflation is in the double digits and central bank reserves have been exhausted. The local currency, the peso, is barely worth the paper it is printed on, and nearly half the population of the once-prosperous South American country lives below the poverty line. President Javier Miley, who was sworn in on Sunday, wants to introduce the US dollar as an official currency.
Capital flight on a very large scale
In short: Luis Caputo, 58, has a lot to do, and if his supporters are to be believed, he is exactly the right man to do it. He is the “Best Trader in Argentina”, a superstar, and the “Messi of Finance”. However, there is also the flip side: Critics say Caputo is not a genius, but rather a profiteer, involved in investment funds in tax havens and involved in embezzlement of public funds and capital flight on a very large scale. Caputo is not a savior in times of need, but rather an accomplice in the disastrous situation the country is experiencing.
Luis, nicknamed “Toto,” Caputo studied economics at the University of Buenos Aires. He worked for a long time at one of the major American banks JP Morgan, then worked at Deutsche Bank, where he was Chairman of the Board of Directors in Argentina until 2008. His transition into politics began in 2015 with the presidency of Mauricio Macri: under the economically liberal head of state, Caputo became First as State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, then as a minister himself, and finally as head of the Central Bank.
Caputo played a key role in resolving a debt dispute with international creditors that had been simmering for years and reopening the country to capital markets. However, the funds for this again came from external debt. In 2018, Caputo was also involved in Argentina receiving a massive $57 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF): more money than any country has ever received from the IMF – and even then, a highly controversial loan. Since 2021, proceedings have been ongoing against Caputo and other members of the government at the time, including on charges of fraud through mismanagement.
So critics are horrified that he, of all people, got the job of economy minister. Even supporters of the new president, Miley, are angry: during the election campaign, he campaigned harshly against Argentina’s political elite, which he calls only “la casta,” meaning class. But there is no longer any talk of that: in order to secure votes from the bourgeois camp, Maili, who calls himself an “anarcho-capitalist,” allied himself with former President Macri before the run-off elections.
This connection may have come through Santiago Caputo, a 38-year-old political strategist, whom Javier Maile calls “the architect of my triumph.” Aside from that, Santiago Caputo is also the new minister’s cousin, just as the two are also related to Nicolas Caputo, the construction lion whom former president Mauricio Macri calls his “soul friend.” Together they attended Colegio Cardinal Newman, a private, Catholic, English-speaking school located in one of the wealthiest suburbs of Buenos Aires.
“Another Argentina is impossible with the same people as always,” the new president was shouting to the crowds during the election campaign. This seems to have been forgotten: the employees are also well known in the new government. The only thing that changes in Argentina are the problems: they get a little bigger every day.