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Raúl Castro's House Cleaning

RaulCastro.jpg

Raúl Castro is replacing the top echelons of the Cuban government, including Vice President Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, and possibly as many as 10 government posts.

Cuban government undergoes massive restructuring in the Miami Herald:

Lage, 57, was one of five vice presidents below Raúl Castro and had served as a de-facto prime minister. He was credited with helping save Cuba's economy by designing modest economic reforms after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Pérez Roque, 43, was previously personal secretary to Fidel Castro and a former leader of the Communist Party youth organization. He had been foreign minister for almost a decade.

BBC:
Other ousted officials include Economy Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez, Finance Minister Georgina Barreiro Fajardo and Labour Minister Alfredo Morales Cartaya.

Four ministries were merged in the reshuffle.

Lage was replaced by General José Amado Ricardo Guerra. Interestingly, Lage keeps his post as vice-president of the Council of State.

Pérez Roque was replaced by vice-chancellor Bruno Rodríguez.

Both Lage and Pérez Roque were considered close to Fidel Castro, and had been seen as possible presidential candidates.

While Raúl Castro had announced when he came to power almost exactly a year ago that he planned to restructure the government, this is the first time so many government officials had been replaced at once.

Recent Cuban news point to stresses between the Fidel and Raúl factions. According to Chilean newspaper La Tercera's editor Cristián Bofill, the brothers don't agree on Cuba's foreign policy. During Michelle Bachelet's visit to Havana last month, Granma, the official organ of the Cuban Communist party, published an article by Fidel stating that Chile should grant Bolivia access to the Pacific. Bachelet was displeased, but Pérez Roque insisted that there would be no retraction over Fidel's article, even when Fidel is a retired head of state.

All of this, of course, makes the news ripe for speculation, particularly coming after last week's Lugar report on changing US policy on Cuba and the visit of French envoy Jack Lange to Havana. In the wake of Lange's visit, Pierre Rigoulot, director of the Institute for Social Studies had predicted big changes in Cuba.

In other, rather odd news, Hugo Chávez claimed that Fidel Castro had gone for a stroll in Havana. The Prensa Latina article (via Cuban Colada) explains that Chávez had seen photos of Castro's stroll while Chávez visited Havana last weekend.