HAVANA TIMES – Cuban deputies today approved the new Council of Ministers of President Miguel Diaz-Canel, without major changes from what he inherited in April from Raul Castro, reported dpa news.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, the Minister of the Armed Forces, General Leopoldo Cintra, and Interior Minister, Vice Admiral Julio Cesar Gandarilla, continue with the most strategic portfolios of the Cuban Government.
The Ministry of Economy changes at the top with the exit of Ricardo Cabrisas, who nevertheless will remain a vice-president of the Council of Ministers. Cabrisas’ vice minister Alejandro Gil Fernandez takes over as minister.
Cabrisas was the Cuban official who managed to renegotiate the country’s historic debt with the Paris Club, under which $8.5 billion US dollars of the official debt of $11.1 billion was forgiven. Cuba had stopped making payments in the 1980s.
Despite the international success, the domestic economy has suffered and in 2016 it closed with a fall in GDP of 0.9 percent, which meant its first recession in 20 years.
When Diaz-Canel assumed the presidency last April, he informed the deputies that he would keep the Council of Ministers that he inherited from the administration of Raul Castro and would wait for the July plenary session of the Parliament to announce his new team.
Of the 34 members of the Council of Ministers, Diaz-Canel ratified 20 ministers from the last government of Raúl Castro.
The other most significant changes occurred in Culture, where the writer Abel Prieto leaves and the official Alpidio Alonso enters, while the new Minister of Justice is Oscar Manuel Silveira Martínez, until now the vice president of the Supreme Court.
Those in charge of Tourism, Manuel Marrero; Transport, Adel Yzquierdo; Construction, René Mesa, and Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca remain in their posts.
Two historical leaders, Comandante Ramiro Valdes and General Ulises Rosales del Toro, also continue as vice presidents of the Council of Ministers.
The new ministerial team has an average age of 60 years and is made up of 26 men and eight women.
After approving the conformation of the new Council of Ministers, the deputies discussed the development of the State budget and began the three days of meetings in which they will debate reforms of the current Constitution, which dates from 1976.
Raul Castro, 87, present at the meeting, remains as the leader of the Communist Party of Cuba, which according to the Constitution and in practice, is the main power of the country.
Once the deputies approve the draft of the new Constitution, and the content is made public, popular consultations with the citizens will be held to finish the process in a referendum, for which there is no established date.