The mystery of Milei’s cloned dogs: Argentina wonders if there are four or five

Two reporters asked about the exact number of his pets, but his spokesperson’s answer only added fuel to the debate about the president’s mental health

Milei’s cloned dogs
Javier Milei with his cloned dogs.Marcelo Dubini (Caras - Perfil)

All of Argentina knows that the president, Javier Milei, adores his “little four-legged children,” as he calls the dogs that live with him in Quinta de Olivos, the residence of the heads of state on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. What no one is sure of, however, is how many English mastiffs he has. In the few known images of his pets, Milei appears with four of them. But Milei himself says that there are five, and that is how they appear in the presidential scepter that he received when he took office in December. A couple of journalists this week asked the presidential spokesperson, Manuel Adorni, about the exact number of dogs, but his answers have only managed to add fuel to an issue that has led the president’s detractors to question his mental health.

“I don’t understand how it changes anything for you if there are four dogs, if there are five dogs or if there are 43 rabbits. What’s the difference?” Adorni answered in his morning press conference on Monday. When cross-examined, he tried to settle the debate with a confusing clarification: “If the president says there are five dogs, there are five dogs and that’s it.”

On Thursday, another journalist argued that it was necessary to repeat the question: “Whether there are four or five dogs is not a problem for the president but for all Argentines, because if the president has four dogs, and he sees five, we are talking about a person who sees something that does not match reality, that’s why I say that we are interested in the number of dogs.”

The spokesperson replied that it is “a lack of respect to define the president as a person who speaks with things that do not exist.” Adorni accused the journalist of “messing with his family” and insisted that discussion of this issue needed to stop.

The questions echo a debate that has been alive in Argentine society since the election campaign. In his biography of the libertarian leader, El loco (The Madman), Juan Luis González writes that Milei’s first dog, Conan, died in 2017. Milei, unable to accept his death, contacted a laboratory to have him cloned and began to talk to him through a medium. When EL PAÍS interviewed the then presidential candidate in July, this was his remark on the matter:

— Is it true that you have telepathic conversations with Conan?

— Sure, and they also say that my dogs are my advisors, and they are fabulous, because look at everything I’ve achieved in terms of results.

— But then you do talk to Conan?

— What I do inside my home is my problem.

At that time, there were four months left until the election. Following his victory at the polls, the media echoed the message published by the laboratory where he cloned the mastiff, PerPETuate, in which they boasted that Milei had dedicated the victory “to Conan, his deceased dog, and to the four clones created from the preserved cells.” Along with the message there was a photograph of Milei with four dogs in 2018, another photo of Conan, and a third in which three clones are seen. The same webpage today, however, shows a corrected picture with “five clones.”

The confusion has continued unabated. In a recent interview with CNN en Español, the journalist asked him about his four dogs, named after famous libertarian economists: Murray, Milton, Robert and Lucas. “There are five,” Milei corrected the reporter, before confessing that his way of relaxing is to go see them every day in the kennels that he ordered built for them in the Quinta de Olivos estate. The president offered details about the character of each of his five pets. “Conan looks very calm, but don’t provoke him,” he warned.

Was Milei referring to the Conan who died in 2017, or to a fifth clone of which there are no known photographic records?

Milei’s opponents have been using the mystery to ridicule the president. “I am studying so I don’t need to ask a dead dog for advice,” read one of the banners at a massive demonstration in defense of public education on Tuesday. “Without mental health, you see your dead dog,” said another. “Conan is dead,” read signs painted on the walls of buildings along the path of the protesters. Some demonstrators pretended to give orders to an invisible dog, represented by a stick to which they had tied a collar on one end.

Milei’s political rivals know that his devotion to his pets is one of the weak points of a leader known for his outbursts of anger. Some have even suggested that he may be suffering from a psychological disorder. This was raised by former president Alberto Fernández, who addressed him in a post on social media on Thursday: “You should know that my dog does not advise me (and he is alive), that ‘forces from heaven’ do not send me signals, and that my actions and reactions are the result of reflection and not of psychological alterations.” The president, at least in public, has not responded to these provocations.

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