Cuba phases in leadership changes at provincial level.
He did say that prior to the holding of this congress, a conferencia nacional would take place to deal with changes within Cuba's leadership, so that the Party would be more adequately prepared for its congress (see CubaNews, September 2009, page 3).
Many observers of Cuban affairs jumped to the conclusion that the whole thing was nothing but an excuse to postpone the congress indefinitely.
But one month ago, Jose R. Machado Ventura--first vice-president and Raul's right-hand man, and a very cautious person when speaking in public--brought the issue to the surface.
Addressing the X Plenum of the Young Communists' Union (UJC) he said the holding of UJC's congress in April 2010 "will be very opportune for the preparation of the VI Party Congress, a moment in which--after a deep debate with the people--decisions will be taken and changes will be adopted for the good of our revolutionary process."
Machado's words--completely overlooked by foreign observers--are extremely important. They indicate that the Party congress will take place some time after UJC's April 2010 congress and imply that crucial decisions and changes will be debated, adopted and implemented.
He did not refer at all to the national congress, something that seems to suggest that this event is becoming less important in the Party's agenda.
Why is this? Probably because Raul's goal to renovate the leadership can be achieved without holding a national conference and, instead, moving directly to the holding of the Party congress seems to have become a clear priority. Otherwise, Machado Ventura would not have spoken a word about the holding of the congress.
After all, many of the expected changes in Cuba's leadership are already taking place. At the provincial level, the most prominent of these changes are as follows:
CITY OF HAVANA PROVINCE
This is a crucial and conflicting position with an extremely complicated agenda in terms of social and political challenges.
Over the last seven years Pedro Saez Montejo was its first Party secretary. A young history teacher when he was appointed, Saez Montejo, a mestizo, is a member of the Politburo. Removed without any special recognition, he was sent to study at the Colegio de Defensa Nacional (CODEN).
Saez Montejo ended his career with the Politburo, and it remains to be seen if he stays in the Central Committee. He's been replaced by Lazara Mercedes Lopez Acea, a rising young star since the mid 1990s. The City of Havana will have, for the first time, a woman as leader of the provincial Party.
Now 45, she's a forestry engineer and a Party cadre since her early youth, Party leader in the municipality of Abreus and in the province of Cienfuegos. She was promoted to the Central Committee since 1997 (V Party Congress) and then three years ago to the Secretariat, where she was in charge of education, science, and sports.
PINAR DEL RIO PROVINCE
Olga Lidia Tapia, a longtime Party cadre who had replaced Maria del Carmen Concepcion (promoted to the Secretariat) as first secretary of the Party several years ago, has now herself been promoted to Secretariat of the Central Committee.
Like Concepcion, she's also a teacher by profession, and a mestiza in her early 40s. Tapia was replaced by Gladys Martinez Verdecia, 38, mestiza, engineer in the field of agronomy. She was a Party leader in the municipality of La Palma and later on became member of the Party's Provincial Committee (Executive Bureau) for five years.
Omar Ruiz Martin, after a successful political career since his early youth and party leader in several municipalities in this province and Party first secretary of the latter over the last three years, was replaced by Julio Ramiro Lima Corzo.
A 41-year-old white history teacher, Lima Corzo was for many years a Party cadre and leader in the municipalities of Cifuentes and Sagua La Grande. More recently, he was a member of the provincial Party Committee (Executive Bureau).
Ruiz Martin was transferred, actually promoted, to first Party secretary in Matanzas--a very important province in terms of tourism, the oil industry and agribusiness (especially sugar and citrus).
The province is home to Varadero, Cuba's top resort and one of the most popular of its kind in the Caribbean (see this issue, page 10).
Ruiz Martin replaces Pedro Betancourt Garcia, who held the position for less than three years.
UJC'S TOP LEADERSHIP
At the previously mentioned X Plenum of the Young Communists Union (UJC), its first secretary Julio Martinez, was replaced--amid greetings and official recognition--by Liudmila Alamo, UJC's previous second secretary. Luis Corvo Vizcaino replaced Alamo as second secretary.
Both will be in charge of preparing for and holding the UJC congress in April 2010. Nothing was said about Martinez's political future.
Other changes will take place in the near future. It remains to be seen if the validation for such changes are implemented by way of a conferencia nacional--about which there's been no word--or the Party congress, as indicated by Ventura Machado, some time after the UJC congress.
Former Cuban intelligence officer Domingo Amuchastegui has lived in Miami since 1994. He writes regularly for CubaNews about politics in Cuba and the South Florida exile community.
CUBAN COUNCIL OF STATE AND COUNCIL OF MINISTERS
President of the Council of State: Raul CASTRO Ruz, Gen. First Vice President of the Council of State: Jose Ramon MACHADO Ventura Vice President of the Council of State: Julio CASAS Regueiro, Corps Gen. Vice President of the Council of State: Abelardo COLOME Ibarra, Corps Gen. Vice President of the Council of State: Esteban LAZO Hernandez Minister Secretary of the Council of State: Homero ACOSTA Alvarez Vice President of the Council of Ministers: Ricardo CABRISAS Ruiz Vice President of the Council of Ministers: Jose Ramon FERNANDEZ Alvarez Vice President of the Council of Ministers: Marino MURILLO Jorge Vice President of the Council of Ministers: Ulises ROSALES del Toro Vice President of the Council of Ministers: Jorge Luis SIERRA Cruz Vice President of the Council of Ministers: Ramiro VALDES Menendez Sec. of the Council of Ministers' Exec. Committee: Jose Amado RICARDO Guerra, Brig. Gen. Minister of Agriculture: Ulises ROSALES del Toro Minister of Basic Industries: Yadira GARCIA Vera Minister of Construction: Fidel FIGUEROA de la Paz Minister of Culture: Abel PRIETO Jimenez Minister of Domestic Trade: Jacinto ANGULO Cruz Minister of Economy & Planning: Marino MURILLO Jorge? Minister of Education: Ena Elsa VELAZQUEZ Cobiella Minister of Finance and Prices: Lina PEDRAZA Rodriguez Minister of the Food Industry: Maria del Carmen CONCEPCION Gonzalez Minister of Foreign Trade & Investment: Rodrigo MALMIERCA Diaz Minister of Foreign Relations: Bruno RODRIGUEZ Parrilla Minister of Higher Education: Miguel DIAZ-CANEL Bermudez Minister of Information Science & Communication: Ramiro VALDES Menendez Minister of Interior: Abelardo COLOME Ibarra, Corps Gen. Minister of Justice: Maria Esther REUS Gonzalez Minister of Labor & Social Security: Margarita Marlene GONZALEZ Fernandez Minister of Light Industry: Jose HERNANDEZ Bernardez Minister of Public Health: Jose Ramon BALAGUER Cabrera Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces: Julio CASAS Regueiro, Corps Gen. Minister of Science, Technology, & Environment: Jose MIYAR Barruecos Minister of the Steelworking Industry: Salvador PARDO Cruz, Brig. Gen. Minister of the Sugar Industry: Luis Manuel AVILA Gonzalez Minister of Tourism: Manuel MARRERO Cruz Minister of Transportation: Jorge Luis SIERRA Cruz Attorney General: Juan ESCALONA Reguera President, Central Bank of Cuba: Ernesto MEDINA Villaveiran Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York: Pedro NUNEZ Mosquera