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Cuba's power structure undergoes its biggest housecleaning since mid-70s.

Over the last six months, Cuba has seen the most extensive overhaul of its ruling nomenklatura since before the holding of the First Communist Party Congress in 1975.

Cuba's dismal economic performance and President Fidel Castro's persistent reluctance to adopt the necessary reforms to lift Cuba out of its current situation has forced him to replace more than a dozen Party and government big-shots--thereby giving ordinary Cubans the impression that change is really in the air.

Yet these cosmetic changes are aimed only at neutralizing criticisms like those articulated last month by academic economist Juan Triana, who told foreign reporters in Havana that Cuba must enact sweeping economic reforms in order to get the economy moving again (see page 5).

Castro's overhaul has involved the following leaders in the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and Cuba's Poder Popular, or people's assembly:

CONRADO MARTINEZ CORONA

Age 54 and white, promoted from the ranks of Communist Youth Union (UJC) to the PCC's Central Committee (CC) and president of Poder Popular in the city of Havana.

Removed after political clashes with current UJC leaders, Martinez was appointed head of the Havana Convention Bureau. He was replaced by Juan Contino Aslan, 43 and white. Contino, who has a degree in economics, was promoted from the ranks of UJC's top leadership to the CC in 1991; he's been head of the CDR (Cuba's neighborhood spy network) for the last 10 years.

A member of the Council of State, Contino was actively supported by Raul Castro in opposition to Roberto Robaina in the 1980s.

ROBERTO F. GARCIA DIAZ

First secretary of the PCC in Isla de la Juventud. Mid 40s, white, engineer; promoted from within the ranks of UJC cadres. Replaced by mathematician Elizabeth Camara Baez, mid-30s, black, promoted from the ranks of the UJC cadres to the CC.

MANUEL MENENDEZ CASTELLANOS

First secretary of the PCC in the province of Cienfuegos. Age 51, white. A technician in the oil industry, he was promoted from the ranks of the state-controlled union movement to the CC in 1991, and transferred to the auxiliary apparatus of the Council of State.

Replaced by Lazara M. Lopez Acea, black and in her early 40s. A forestry specialist by profession, promoted to CC in 1997. She has been a member of the provincial nomenklatura for the last 10 years.

JOSE ANTONIO DIAZ PEREZ

First secretary of the PCC in the province of Sancti Spiritus. Age 40, white, mechanical engineer by profession; promoted from ranks of UJC cadres, with 10 years of experience in Party work. He was transferred to the CC's central apparatus.

Replaced by Miguel Acebo Cortinas, 48, white. Agronomics engineer, promoted from ranks of UJC cadres and with 20 years of experience in Party work in Villa Clara province. A member of the CC since 1991 and member of National Assembly since 1998.

ESTEBAN LAZO HERNANDEZ

First secretary of the PCC in the city of Havana for nearly 10 years. Age 59 and black. Served more than 30 years as a Party cadre, and provincial leader in Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba. Politburo member since the mid-1980s.

On Jun. 24, Lazo was transferred to other duties within the Politburo, supervising the CC's departments of education and ideology. (see CubaNews, July 2003, page 2).

The real reasons for Lazo's removal seem to be associated with his lack of enthusiasm over Martinez Corona's removal and the outcome of the 2002-03 elections in the capital city, along with Lazo's own health problems.

Replaced by Politburo member Pedro Saez Montejo, who is 50 and black.

Saez Montejo was a UJC cadre while teaching history, and from there was promoted to Party cadre and provincial leader, first in La Habana and Sancti Spiritus, then back to La Habana as PCC first secretary. He's been repeatedly praised in public by Raul Castro.

JOSE R. BALAGUER CABRERA

Age 71, white. Politburo member and physician who joined the Rebel Army in 1958 and always enjoyed leadership positions under the protection of Raul Castro.

Comandante in Cuba's FAR, head of medical services and other positions until his promotion to the Party leadership in the early 1980s, Balaguer served as ambassador to the Soviet Union under Gorbachev. He was also first secretary of the Party in Santiago de Cuba and Granma, and the man chosen by Raul Castro in 1992 to replace expelled Politburo member Carlos Aldana.

As a Politburo member, Balaguer supervised three departments--the two recently handed over to Lazo Hernandez and the Department of International Relations, which he continues to head.

Yet these days, this department has lost considerable prestige due to the current roles of Felipe Perez Roque as minister of foreign affairs (working very closely with Fidel Castro), Ricardo Alarcon and Interior Minister Abelardo Colome Ibarra. In addition, reports indicate that Balaguer's health is worsening.

MIGUEL M. DIAZ-CANEL BERMUDEZ

First secretary of the PCC in the province of Villa Clara for the last nine years. Age 43, white, electronics engineer by profession. Diaz-Canel comes from the ranks of UJC's top leadership and was promoted to the CC in 1991. In 1997, he was one of six candidates selected to join the Politburo, where he has become very close to Pedro Saez Montejo. In the last six or seven years, he's also been praised repeatedly by Raul Castro, privately as well as in public.

Replaced in Villa Clara by Roberto Lopez Hernandez, white, in his mid 40s, with a degree in geography. Lopez Hernandez, a teacher by profession, spent 15 years as a UJC and Party cadre in the province of Villa Clara.

At the time of his designation, he was not a professional cadre at the provincial level. More recently, he was promoted to the CC.

JORGE L. SIERRA CRUZ

First secretary of the PCC in the province of Holguin. White, 42, a mechanical engineer by profession with a master's degree in mathematics and information technology.

Simultaneously promoted to CC and Politburo in 1997 after becoming a Party member five years earlier, following a long political career within the provincial UJC leadership.

Like Diaz-Canel, who replaced him in Holguin, Sierra Cruz has been praised often by Raul Castro. His new job isn't yet known.

Pedro Saez Montejo, first secretary of the PCC in the province of La Habana, transferred there to replace Lazo Hernandez (see page 2).

Replaced by Ivan Ordaz Curbelo, white, age 37, with a degree in social sciences. He comes from the ranks of UJC cadres and did Party work for 17 years. More recently, Ordaz Curbelo was promoted to the CC.

ANGEL GARATE DOMINGUEZ

First secretary of the Poder Popular in the province of La Habana. Was removed and appointed vice-minister of transportation.

Replaced by Evelio Saura Perot and Armando Regino Cuellar.

MARCIA COBAS RUIZ

White, mid 40s, with a degree in chemistry. For years, she supervised the laboratory at the Camilo Cienfuegos sugar mill. In 1987, Cobas Ruiz became a Party cadre, working in municipalities throughout the city of Havana.

More recently, she's become a member of the provincial Executive Bureau of the PCC and led a major census of Cuba's handicapped children--an achievement that earned her praise and recommendations by Fidel Castro.

COUNCIL OF MINISTERS

Public Health (MINSAP): Dr. Damodar Pena Penton, white, 41, specialist in internal medicine, led Cuban mission to Guatemala in late 1998, following Hurricane Mitch. Played leading role in anti-dengue campaign in 2002; praised in public and private by Fidel Castro.

Construction (MICONS): Fidel Fernando Figueroa de la Paz, white, age 46, a civil engineer by profession.

Transport (MITRANS): Carlos Manuel Pazo Torrado, white, age 40, expert in geodesics and cartography, former head of the CC's Depart-ment of Construction, Transport and Commu-nications for many years.

Finance and Prices: Georgina Barreiro Fajardo, white, age 39, with a master's degree in finance and credit, and with 16 years of experience at Cuba's Central Bank, where she was most recently vice-president (for more details, see CubaNews, July 2003).
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Title Annotation:executive changes within Communist Party
Author:Amuchastegui, Domingo
Publication:CubaNews
Date:Aug 1, 2003
Words:1319
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