Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas the executive president of the powerful Gaesa conglomerate
HAVANA TIMES – This Friday, July 1, 2022, Division General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas died in Havana at the age of 62, because of a cardiorespiratory arrest, according to official media reports.
Although more details of his death are unknown, unofficial sources assure that he suffered from lung cancer. Faced with the unexpected news, many people wonder who will inherit all the positions and powers that Raul Castro’s right-hand man had.
Son of Gen. Guillermo Rodriguez del Pozo, who was head of the National Civil Defense General Staff, and former son-in-law of Raul Castro, Lopez-Callejas career and power were marked by his relationship with the Castro family. Although he kept a low profile and the state media did not report on his activities, he was publicly presented as an adviser to the President during an official visit by Miguel Díaz-Canel to Mexico in September 2021.
Lopez-Callejas was known for directing the Grupo Empresarial de Administración S.A. (Gaesa), belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), and which has under its control the Tiendas Caribe Chain; various import/export companies such as Tecnotex, Tecnoimport, Cubagro and Ecasol; and real estate companies such as Almest, Caribe and Aurea.
For several years, Cuban and foreign analysts have warned about Gaesa’s excessive control over the Cuban economy, which intensified after Raul Castro assumed the presidency of the country in 2008.
Within the business group, one of the fundamental pieces is the Cimex S.A. Corporation, which in turn manages a large part of the internal commerce and under whose control are the Pan-American Stores, the Photoservice, the Cupet-Cimex Servicentros, Coral Negro Jewelry , Fincimex, Banco Financiero Internacional, Havanatur, Havanautos, Melfi Marine and the Specialized Logistics and Trade Zone (ZELCOM S.A.). Universal Stores S.A. with the Mariel Zone and the Gaviota Tourism Group are other Gaesa jewels.
Gaesa is also a 44.2% shareholder of Etecsa, Cuba’s telecommunications monopoly. Investigations by the Miami Herald, ADN Cuba and Diario de Cuba have shown that Gaesa officials or people close to Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, such as his brother Guillermo Faustino Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, manage companies outside of Cuba. The lack of transparency characterizes all of Gaesa’s activity, leaving the public without access to the information of the holding company nor ways to demand accountability.
Lopez-Callejas was born on January 19, 1960, in Santa Clara, Villa Clara. In October 2021 he was elected deputy to the National Assembly of People’s Power for the Villa Clara municipality of Remedios. According to the local Vanguardia newspaper, the vote that elected Lopez-Callejas as a member of the Cuban Parliament was held to fill a vacancy after the death of another deputy, Antonio Perez Santos.
The possibility of filling vacancies is carried out by the municipal delegates, even though in theory it is a right recognized to the citizenry: that of directly electing the members of the National Assembly. On the other hand, the election of deputies for a territory other than where they reside is a common practice in Cuban politics; those are the cases, for example, of Miguel Diaz-Canel and Raul Castro.
One of the concerns of citizens at the time that Lopez-Callejas was elected deputy was rooted in the untimely, not unexpected, election. However, that designation as a deputy of the late leader of Gaesa seemed to respond to the power that the Council of State has to define when and which vacancies in Parliament are filled. This is a convenient power from the political point of view, since it allows those who control the electoral panorama to have mechanisms that legitimize processes of empowerment or access to public positions in the highest spheres, for which it is essential to be a deputy.
When during the official visit of the Cuban delegation to Mexico on the anniversary of that nation’s independence, Lopez-Callejas was presented as advisor to the Cuban president. Such inferred that his appointment as a deputy responded to the logic of public empowerment of high-ranking Cuban officials.
He became a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee in 2011 and its Politburo in 2021, after the 8th PCC Congress.
The profile on Lopez-Callejas on the Cuban Parliament’s website reflects that, since before 1990, he had a work relationship with the upper echelons of power in Cuba. He worked in the Ministry of Foreign Trade and was the liaison for the FAR minister, Raul Castro at that time, with the direction of Foreign Trade Economic Collaboration. In 1990 he joined the Military Counterintelligence and carried out an internationalist mission in Angola.
He held the position of Head of Section and of the V Department of the Armed Forces which, according to former Counterintelligence agents, controls the economic, accounting, and financial part of the Armed Forces. Since 1996 he directed the Business Administration Group.
Lopez-Callejas has been a member of the PCC’s Political-Economic Commission since its creation in August 2006. Since 2011 he heads the Government’s commission for attention to the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM). According to an investigation by El Nuevo Herald, the general was considered the “main interlocutor” of the Cuban government. Currently, the general director of the ZEDM is Ana Teresa Igarza Martínez, a former military judge, who was the legal director of Gaesa.
In October 2011, Luis Alberto Rodríguez was appointed president of the Cuban Institute for the Coordination of Collaboration and Investments with Angola; country to which Gaesa’s control extends through the Antillean Export Corporation (Antex) which, in turn, manages six companies in Angolan territory with businesses ranging from the export of professional services to investments in construction.