From the smallest municipality in the country to a candidate for prime minister

From the smallest municipality in the country to a candidate for prime minister

He is known for being tough and rebellious as a child. A childhood that, in fact, was always marked by politics. The position he is in now – and at the age of 46 he could become prime minister – was not an ambition when he started at the Socialist Youth (JS). But, as he says, “life happened”.

Pedro Nuno Santos was born on April 13, 1977, in São João da Madeira, a land of which he says he is very proud. “Our land is always more beautiful than others. São João da Madeira is the smallest municipality in the country but it is a land that managed to develop with a lot of struggle, with a lot of work”, he said recently in an intimate interview on the Alta Definição program. “I really learned this need to fall and create again. It’s a characteristic of the Sanjoanenses”, he argues.

Pedro Nuno Santos says that the family was not poor, but they worked a lot. Dad doesn’t make shoes. Grandfather did. He had a small factory at home, some mechanization but it was very manual. His father worked in a factory, in a company called Califa. Then he opened a company, then others and the business grew. “And this teaching, this struggle to get what you have, was always present in my education as a man”, he guarantees.

For as long as he can remember, politics has been talked about at home since his father was an active activist following the 25th of April and his education was always based on politics, present in conversations and discussions. And he actively participated in these conversations, especially with his father.

Childhood was comfortable. He played football but “was terrible” and also did martial arts, where he wasn’t that good either. He excelled at swimming but never liked sports. He says he was good at communicating with others and had important positions at school, such as being class delegate or being president of the Student Association. He graduated in Economics from ISEG, an institution where he was president of the RGA Board and member of the senate of the Technical University of Lisbon. In 2001 he developed activity at CISEP – Center for Studies on Portuguese Economics, in the area of ​​Health Economics, under the guidance of Professor Gouveia Pinto.


Having completed his degree in Economics, he joined the family business group, Grupo Tecmacal, SA., a group of service and commercialization companies and the development of industrial equipment.

But it was still in his youth that politics entered his life. He started as president of the parish assembly of São João da Madeira, deputy of the municipal assembly, president of the Aveiro federation of Socialist Youth and general secretary of JS between 2004 and 2008.

He then joined the Government and over the years held various positions.

Controversial political life Later, Pedro Nuno Santos served as deputy in the X and XII Legislatures, having been vice-president of the PS parliamentary group and coordinator of PS deputies in the Economy Committee and the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the BES case.

He was also Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs in the XXI Government, from November 2015 to February 2019. And he was Minister of Infrastructure and Housing in the XXI and XXII Constitutional Governments. And it is mainly as a member of António Costa’s Government that Pedro Nuno Santos stands out most. The controversies are mounting and the airport or TAP dossier are the ones that most ‘plot’ it.

In June 2022, the country was taken by surprise with the announcement of the new airport in Alcochete. The country and the Prime Minister and even the President of the Republic. But behind the order that the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing published, there was also the Secretary of State for Infrastructure, Hugo Santos Mendes, who signed the document. Costa revoked the orders, Pedro Nuno Santos continued in the Government, but more modestly.

But from the airport to TAP it was just a short hop. When it became known that TAP paid half a million euros to its former administrator Alexandra Reis, who had since been appointed Secretary of State for the Treasury, everything fell at the feet of the then Minister of Infrastructure and Housing and the snowball of controversy grew. Shortly afterwards, Pedro Nuno Santos admitted that he knew about Alexandra Reis’ termination agreement with TAP, however, he said nothing about whether he knew the amount of compensation. After all, he knew, as he later admitted.

The Alexandra Reis case – which after a series of new mistakes also led to the departure of the then CEO of TAP, Christine Ourmières-Widener – forced the creation of a Commission of Inquiry, where Pedro Nuno Santos was also heard.

These were, as he admitted, the most difficult moments of his political life. “The year 2022 was a terrible year. It was tough. I left the Government with a case that received a lot of media attention and that had a very significant impact”, but he guarantees that he never thought about giving up on political life, even though these were difficult periods. “I had a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry where I was scrutinized like few other members of the Government.”

Time passed and Pedro Nuno Santos remained out of the spotlight but he knew exactly what he wanted. However, even before the Government left, the now socialist candidate became a commentator for SIC, which many say aimed to ‘clean up his image’.

He says the road to get where he is was very long. “When I started at JS I never thought I would be general secretary”. A long journey with several positions, “I knew that the day I would apply [a secretário-geral do PS] would arrive, whether he would win or not, that is always a big unknown.” But he reveals that his candidacy was “a very poorly kept secret” because almost everyone already knew, inside and outside the party. “It was always clear to me that the day the current prime minister did not run for party leadership I would run.”

Being in the position he now holds, he says is the “weight of responsibility”, mainly to not disappoint the party and those who believed in him. “Politicians are normal people, like everyone else,” he told SIC.

But he assured that his mother was not very enthusiastic about political life, his father saw things differently. The scrutiny it undergoes is not easy. “The criticisms are harsh, many of them have been particularly harsh.” But she assumes that the support of his wife, son and close family have been his strength to get through these moments.

Regarding being in politics – which he intends to continue – the intention is clear: “I am in politics because I believe that it is necessary to transform and this idea of ​​dreams and ambition is a horizon that we want to reach. It’s the same in politics as it is in life. If we don’t believe it’s possible, we won’t do anything to get there”, he said on Dois at 10.

Assuring that he is not in politics “to get rich”, the candidate for prime minister in the next elections says: “Politics has to solve people’s problems”, even though he is accused of not having done so in the last eight years.

Personal life is also not free from controversy. The name of Pedro Nuno Santos’ wife – Catarina Gamboa – appears linked to the Government. They met many years ago, at JS, through a very close friend: Duarte Cordeiro. Now, Catarina Gamboa held several positions close to Duarte Cordeiro, not only while he was Minister of the Environment and vice-president of the Lisbon Chamber.

At that point, Pedro Nuno Santos was forced to explain himself. He defended the woman’s journey and explained that it is normal for people who are part of the same group to fall in love, arguing that Catarina Gamboa made her journey alone. “Catarina, who is my wife and the mother of my son Sebastião, is also Catarina Gamboa: an excellent professional, a person of enormous competence and confidence.” They had their first child in December 2016 and the birth was entitled to an announcement from Expresso: “The contraption’s first baby” was born. He confessed, however, that he would like to have more, but it wasn’t possible: “There were life projects that we couldn’t achieve. We wanted a bigger family and we never got it.”


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