By PILAR MONTES
HAVANA TIMES, March 4- When Raul Castro took over as president on February 24, 2008 he said that the times ahead require a leaner, more efficient government structure and asked for some time to organize the restructuring and settle on his cabinet.
Then suddenly, a year later, the telluric movement occurred on Monday in a major cabinet shake up as the President moved to put his personal mark on the government he inherited from former leader Fidel Castro.
The Official Note that details the promotions and demotions came without any explanation leaving it up to the population to draw their own conclusions. See the changes at New Appointments of Ministers
I believe the removal of several of the officials had more to do with style than for having done a bad job. The changes may be most felt in the economic sphere, but we will have to wait for proposals and initiatives from the new ministers and Raul himself before any real evaluation can be made.
The president has called to mobilize the nation’s productive forces with modern management techniques and incentives for an underpaid work force that he has recognized needs to improve their living standard.
Some analysts are claiming a militarization of the economy, noting the new Minister of the Steel and Mechanic Industry comes from the Armed Forces, although in that case his former occupation was Director General of the Military Industrial Union, which is related to his new post.
The most significant reshaping of the government came with the removal of Carlos Lage, who was Vice President of the Council of Ministers, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, the youngest among top government officials, and Jose Luis Rodriguez, the architect of the economic policy that allowed Cuba to survive the critical 90s.
In Tuesday’s evaluation of these changes, former President Fidel Castro says “No injustice has been done with certain officials.” None of those mentioned by media reports as supposedly more affected by their demotion expressed disconformities and this was not due to lack of personal valor, said Fidel in his column which can be read in English at: Healthy Changes in the Council of Ministers
The reason according to Fidel was that: “The sweet nectar of power for which they hadn’t experienced any type of sacrifice awoke ambitions in them that led them to play out a disgraceful role.”
The removal of these three key figures -all replaced by civilians- may point to a change in policy and discourse yet to come.
As far as a streamlining of structures is concerned, one of the most logical changes was to merge the Ministries of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment. A similar movement was to unite the ministries of the Food Industry and the Fishing Industry, now under the former, to make the best use of scarce resources.
President Raul Castro has been a strong supporter of strengthening Cuban institutions and his latest moves appear geared in that direction. In these times of world economic crisis, the measures and personnel changes made will hopefully protect Cuba from a harder impact.