The French five-star general who has 'bewitched' President Hollande


When François Hollande was elected head of state in May 2012, General Benoît Puga expected to be removed from the powerful position as chief military advisor to the French president that he had held under Nicolas Sarkozy. Instead Puga was kept on, and has even seen his influence grow following French military interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic. “He's taking control of the president's brain,” is the view of some at the ministry of defence. Increasingly, Puga's role at the Elysée Palace is causing annoyance among MPs from the ruling Socialist Party, not least because of the general's known right-wing sympathies. In the meantime, argues Thomas Cantaloube, Puga's continuing presence at the heart of government tells us a great deal about the Sarkozy years, the way Hollande exercises power and about the fawning and secret nature of this five-star general himself.

Reading articles is for subscribers only. Subscribe now.

Benoît Puga. The name reverberates like an overstretched rubber band. Or, if one prefers to use a military metaphor, like the muffled sound of a submachine gun. Behind his impeccable demeanour and faintly ironic smile, Benoît Puga is one of the most powerful men in the French Republic but also one of the most secret. A general with five stars notched on his képi, the highest rank in the French army, his title is Chef d’État-Major particulier du Président (CEMP), or chief of the president's military staff. In other words he is the French head of state's military advisor and his principal consultant on all defence issues.