Changes Leave You Wondering


 MORRO LIGHTHOUSE, photo by Caridad
MORRO LIGHTHOUSE, photo by Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, March 10 – The World Baseball Classic is diverting my attention these days but there is still a buzzing in my head, wondering what has just happened in Cuba where the two youngest key figures in the government were removed in disgrace and numerous other changes were made.

VP Carlos Lage was a virtual prime minister, and former foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque defended Cuba at the United Nations and numerous other forums for the last decade.

Like most Cubans and foreigners that follow events on the island, the fall of both on March 2nd, and their being accused of abusing their posts and pleasing the enemy, was not something to take lightly.

The replacement a few days before without explanation of Fernando Remirez de Estenoz as the Communist Party’s top International Relations officer was another big surprise.

Lage and Perez Roque for the government, and Remirez for the Party, had been the most visible faces of Cuba’s contact with most governments and political parties since I’ve lived in Cuba.

The Surprise Wasn’t the Restructuring

President Raul Castro had said when he first took office a year earlier that he would be making changes to streamline the government, requesting time to do so. It was also understood that in the restructuring new figures would be appointed to some of the top posts.

In that light, several of the changes like fusing the ministries of External Commerce (MICE) and Foreign Investment and Economic Collaboration (MINVEC) and the Food and Fishing Ministries came as no surprise.

Raul Castro comes from a military background with a half century heading the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR). Besides defending the nation, that institution has a reputation of being more disciplined and successful in its economic ventures.

Therefore, it’s also no surprise that the President has put some of his most trusted generals in key posts to oversee the economy and other aspects of Cuban life, especially in these difficult times of world economic crisis to which Cuba is not immune.

However, the information to make an intelligent evaluation of Cuba’s civilian vs. military led economic performance, the pluses and minus of both, is simply not available to journalists or the general population.

Most disturbing are the cases of Lage and Perez Roque. Rumors abound as to what the deposed officials actually did. Some say more information is forthcoming and others feel it could take months or longer.

While the bats are swinging in Mexico and San Diego and the air clears as to how far Cuba will go in the World Baseball Classic, I know I’m not alone in also hoping some clarity will emerge soon as to what happened in the political arena.

2 thoughts on “Changes Leave You Wondering

  • I too am perplexed by the unexpected and severe decision. Still, it would be very naive to look for the easy answer. It cannot be that Raul is seeking to consolidate power by surrounding himself with loyalists. The key to understanding the strategic issues in Cuba is to listen to Fidel. It has never been his practice to publicly humiliate anyone, particularly those who have made outstanding contributions to the country. BUT, you will also notice that Fidel never backs away from the tough decisions and he is very severe with those who commit “errors”. He is intolerant of personal failings that could have serious repercussions, either for the country or the citizenry.
    As someone who has followed Cuba’s history from the late 1970s, I know there is “information” that the general public is not privy to but which has driven these decisions. Perhaps we are anxious for the “gossip” of what these guys could possibly have done to merit their disgrace. We need to be more perceptive. Did some persons quietly resent Raul’s ascendancy to the post of President? Did they tire of the “Old Guard”? Did they make off-the-cuff comments about Raul not being “as smart as his brother” (which Raul himself reminds everyone.) Or maybe they were unhappy about Cuba and Russia’s new “rapproachment”. Whatever the reason, the Cuban leadership is too sophisticated to make foolhardy decisions that would – at least on the surface – alienate the entire population. On this issue there is alot we don’t know and may never hear for obvious reasons.

  • Circles Robinson,

    Thanks for including the above article in the Havana Times.

    Robert Cowdery

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