Monday, March 30, 2009

Open Mike Night

For one minute, people in Cuba who chose to participate were able to freely speak their minds...accompanied by a dove, no less...This is art!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lage Jr., Cienfuegos, and Miret

Some news from

Carlos Lage Codorniu, the former Vice President's son, will apparently be joining the ranks of sons and daughters of revolutionary leaders that have left the island. He will be moving to Spain, which is none too shocking.

Lage Codorniu's removal as President of the FEU was really one of the first signs that his father was not in Raul's favor. I suppose he has decided to pursue his own ambitions elsewhere now that nepotism will no longer ensure his success.

The same article also points us to La Gaceta Oficial, which publicizes the removal from government of Vice Presidents Pedro Miret Prieto and Osmany Cienfuegos Gorriarán.

It is interesting to note that these removals were not announced along with the other structural changes made earlier this month.

Did the government want this to be covered separately so people could see that it was moving some of its oldest officials out? It's the only angle that makes sense to me. Either way, it's not that big a deal, these two were already out of the game for some time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Your Brain vs. Your Brain on Drugs

Below, I've reproduced two articles about the recent removal of Lage and Perez Roque.

The first, by Carlos Alberto Montaner, seems realistic and plausible.

The second, by Jorge Castañeda, is not.

The difference in these two articles was too large not to comment on.


No foes, more power


In the '90s, it was said that Carlos Lage would lead the transition in Cuba. The first vice president was a tranquil and polite man in the midst of a usually frenetic tribe beset by a flagrant case of machismo. I heard Carlos Salinas de Gortari say it, when he was president of Mexico: ``Lage is the future.''

At that time, the Soviet Union was gone, Cuban communism teetered. It appears that when Lage talked with foreign politicians in private, he flirted with democratic ideas and sold himself as the Caribbean Adolfo Suárez, the Spanish leader who successfully led the political transition following the death of Francisco Franco in the 1970s.

At the start of the 21st century, the role of the Dauphin was played by Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, an engineer who (like Lage) came from Fidel Castro's entourage. He had been a sort of first assistant to the comandante, so when Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina was expelled from his post, Fidel himself anointed Pérez Roque as a substitute because ''he was the person who best interpreted his thinking.'' Pérez Roque's apotheosis came in December 2005: He delivered a master class before Parliament, and everybody, including the Financial Times, declared him heir to the throne. At that moment, he had the reputation of being a hard, inflexible ``Taliban.''

Draw up charges

A few months later, in July 2006, Fidel Castro fell ill and had to leave the government precipitously. With the arrival of Raúl Castro to the presidency, both Lage and Pérez Roque were discreetly sidelined.

The two were cadres selected by Fidel for a hypothetical political succession, but Raúl did not trust them and had his own ideas about how and with whom to organize an economic reform and the transmission of authority. So, Raúl asked Gen. Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, his soul brother and ultra-powerful minister of the interior, to draw up a good set of charges to remove them from the game in a flash, along with the other pesky functionaries he wanted to eliminate.

And that's what happened. Cuba's formidable espionage apparatus has accumulated proof of petty corruption, continuous nepotism, negligence, counter-revolutionary behavior by relatives, personal ambition and (most grave) conveying to foreign politicians and visitors false expectations regarding purported political changes.

Pérez Roque, who in the opinion of many foreign politicians and diplomats had been a Taliban in the early days, had turned into a ''reformer.'' So thought Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who was betting on Pérez Roque for the transition.

Once the two targets had been duly ''set up,'' and armed with voluminous reports from the intelligence services, Raúl, an expert in the art of decapitating foes, began his methodical task as executioner. He easily convinced Fidel of the basic disloyalty of the subjects, summoned the Political Bureau, confronted the accused with proof of their ''immoral and miserable'' behavior, crushed them emotionally, warning them that their deeds bordered on treason, for which they deserved to be executed (if the Revolution weren't so generous) and prepared the conditions for a public announcement.

This time, however, he had to perform a bothersome task: It was necessary to explain to dimwit Hugo Chávez what was going to happen, because Lage and Pérez Roque were his favorite interlocutors, and it wouldn't be fair to surprise him with their elimination. Insufferable though the Venezuelan may be, he is the man who feeds Cuba and must be treated like a fine parrot.

A better life

With these and other personages hors de combat, Raúl feels that he has cleared the way to the Sixth Party Congress, due in the fall, at which he will arrive with all his trusted people in key positions, so nothing may escape his control. Meanwhile, total despondency spreads through the revolutionary ranks, and any illusion of change vanishes. Singer Silvio Rodríguez is going to live in Argentina, Pablo Milanés is definitely settling in Galicia, and the children and grandchildren of the nomenklatura are stealthily departing for any place where there's a hint of a better life. In Cuba everybody knows that's not going to happen.

©2009 Firmas Press

The Plot Against The Castros

Two of Cuba's star politicians seem to have been a part of a conspiracy or a coup to overthrow Raúl Castro

By Jorge Castañeda | NEWSWEEK

Published Mar 14, 2009

For years, two tidbits of conventional wisdom have dominated debates among Cubanologists (a tropical subspecies of former Kremlinologists). First, that Deputy Prime Minister and economic czar Carlos Lage has been in charge of running the island economy since the early '90s, and, despite differences of opinion regarding his performance, was seen as one of the most likely successors to Fidel Castro's brother and successor, Raúl. Second, that Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque was not only in charge of the international relations Fidel Castro took increasingly less interest in, but that he was something of a favorite son. Most observers, including several Latin American ex-presidents close to Castro, saw him as the heir apparent, once the caudillo's brother passed from the scene. So Raúl's decision to dump the two stars a fortnight ago is a major event in Cuba, and unlike previous purges, this one is clearly linked to Fidel Castro's succession, and may tell us a great deal about what lies ahead.

The problem, of course, is that, as in the Soviet Union when Stalin died, or in China after Mao's death, we don't really know what is going on. Yet there are solid reasons to believe that something along the following lines took place: for at least a month or so, Lage, Pérez Roque and others were apparently involved in a conspiracy, betrayal, coup or whatever term one prefers, to overthrow or displace Raúl from his position. In this endeavor, they recruited—or were recruited by—Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who in turn tried to enlist the support of other Latin American leaders, starting with Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic, who refused to get involved.

Their reasons for wishing to unseat Rául were mainly turf and power, but they also feared that the leader was beginning to feel threatened by the reaction of the Cuban people to excessive economic and social deprivation, and after his brother's demise would be unable to control the flow of events. Consequently, he would accept a series of economic and political reforms to normalize relations with the United States, knowing full well that therein lay the only option for immediate improvement in Cubans' lives. They believed this to be a betrayal of the revolution, and the beginning of the end of its survival.

This would represent the latest of many anti-Castro intrigues since 1959. As usual, Castro (Raúl this time; before, both brothers) detected the plot almost before the plotters themselves. Raúl took the evidence collected by military intelligence to his ailing brother, and forced him to choose: stick with him and extend his support to the predetermined succession path, or back Lage and Pérez Roque and forsake Raúl. With evident disappointment in his old allies, the Comandante Máximo backed Raúl. Then Chávez was summoned to Havana to be placed before another devil's alternative: back off, while maintaining economic support for the island, or lose his Cuban security detail and intelligence apparatus, exposing himself to coups and assassination attempts from eventual Venezuelan replacements. He chose to stick with the Castros.

The day after their resignation, the two plotters were expelled from their other posts in disgrace. In a newspaper column Fidel accused them of harboring excessive "ambitions" fed by the "honey of power" and the "absence of sacrifice." He said they had reawakened the illusions of "foreign powers" regarding Cuba's future. More importantly, and enigmatically, he resorted to a baseball metaphor on the occasion of the World Baseball Classic to praise Dominicans for not participating (the team's plans had been unclear) and to claim that Chávez's baseball players, "as good and young" as they might be, were no match for "Cuba's seasoned all-stars."

When the conspirators were stripped of their titles, they published classic Stalinist mea culpa letters, acknowledging their "mistakes" (without saying what they were), and pledging loyalty to Fidel, Raúl and the revolution. Such behavior raises ominous questions. Pérez Roque was popular in Cuba; his youth, his humble origins, his combative nature all brought him closer to the people than most Cuban bureaucrats. Once Fidel is gone, will Raúl be able to "keep him down on the farm," if and when he claims to be Fidel's true heir? Will Raúl be able to pull off a rapprochement with Washington quickly enough to placate the restiveness his opponents could exploit? Or should he act to remove them from the scene, one way or another, before they return shrouded in glory?

Needless to say, none of this can be fully substantiated, and it is quite possible that, indeed, the entire affair might have now come to an end. Or, more probably, there will be a sequel: further persecution of the fallen idols, growing discontent in Cuba and increasing difficulties on the part of Raúl in managing the succession. It is worth remembering that Lenin, Stalin and Mao were all unable to control their successions, and they were neither fools nor choir children. There is scant reason to believe that Fidel, despite all his talent, will prove more successful.


Castañeda is a former foreign minister of Mexico, Global Distinguished Professor at New York University and a fellow at the New America Foundation.

© 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Yesterday, Fernando Remirez de Estenoz, was let go as head of the Cuban Communist Party's Foreign Relations Department.

The ouster of Fidel's guys, in my view, only furthers the notion that Raul is firmly behind Cuba's helm, as I've been saying for quite some time.

I think some of the recently announced changes are for streamlining purposes, like the consolidation of some ministries. But for the most part, I would qualify these changes of personnel as the personal preferences of Raul solely to further surround himself with his people.

Of the people he has promoted the past two weeks, three have been from the Secretariat: Jorge Luis Sierra, María del Carmen Concepción González, Lina Pedraza Rodríguez. In addition to these Party officials, Raul also promoted 2 generals, general de brigada Salvador Pardo Cruz and general de brigada José Amado Ricardo Guerra.

Raul is bringing in the guns and the Party, neither of which is a surprise. The military is Cuba's strongest and most respected institution and Raul has worked closely and developed trust with those in its ranks. He has also worked closely with the Party and has established trust with many in its leadership.

The military runs the economy. It has the guns and provides the butter...Raul needs the military firmly behind him, it's the only institution that can prevent him from falling after his Vodka benders, but that's neither here nor there.

So long as he has the military's complete loyalty, Raul does not need the people's support or approval, neither of which he has.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Analysis to come...

Reestructuran Gobierno Cubano 2 de Marzo del 2009, 2:40 p.m.
La Habana, Cuba.- El Consejo de Estado dio a conocer la siguiente nota oficial.En consonancia con los planteamientos realizados por el Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, en la sesión constitutiva de la VII Legislatura de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular el 24 de febrero de 2008, acerca de que “hoy se requiere una estructura más compacta y funcional, con menor número de organismos de la administración central del Estado y una mejor distribución de las funciones que cumplen”, el Consejo de Estado, a propuesta de su Presidente, previa consulta con el Buró Político del Comité Central del Partido, acordó en reunión celebrada en el día de hoy realizar los siguientes movimientos de cuadros y reestructuraciones en algunos organismos de la Administración Central del Estado: Liberar al compañero José Luis Rodríguez García del cargo de Vicepresidente del Consejo de Ministros y Ministro de Economía y Planificación. Designar al compañero Marino Murillo Jorge en el cargo de Vicepresidente del Consejo de Ministros y Ministro de Economía y Planificación y liberarlo de su responsabilidad al frente del Ministerio de Comercio Interior. Liberar al compañero Otto Rivero Torres de sus responsabilidades como Vicepresidente del Consejo de Ministros, teniendo en cuenta que ha concluido el traspaso de los programas que atendía a los respectivos organismos inversionistas. El Vice-presidente del Gobierno Ramiro Valdés Menéndez quedará encargado de su coordinación y control. Fusionar los ministerios de Comercio Exterior y para la Inversión Extranjera y la Colaboración Económica, y designar al compañero Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz en el cargo de Ministro de Comercio Exterior e Inversión Extranjera, denominación que comprende a las actividades de Colaboración Económica que desarrolla el país. Liberar al compañero Raúl de la Nuez Ramírez de sus responsabilidades como Ministro de Comercio Exterior. Fusionar los ministerios de la Industria Alimenticia y de la Industria Pesquera y designar a la compañera María del Carmen Concepción González, quien fuera previamente liberada de su condición de miembro del Secretariado del Comité Central del Partido, en el cargo de Ministra de la Industria Alimenticia, denominación que incluye las actividades de la Industria Pesquera. Liberar a los compañeros Alejandro Roca Iglesias y Alfredo López Valdés de sus cargos de ministros de la Industria Alimenticia y de la Industria Pesquera, respectivamente. Liberar al compañero Felipe Pérez Roque de sus responsabilidades como Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores y promover al actual Viceministro Primero, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, para ocupar ese cargo. Liberar a la compañera Georgina Barreiro Fajardo del cargo de Ministra de Finanzas y Precios y nombrar en su lugar a la compañera Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, también liberada de su condición de miembro del Secretariado del Comité Central del PCC, responsabilidad desde la cual atendía a los órganos globales de la economía. Liberar al compañero Fernando Acosta Santana del cargo de Ministro de la Industria Sideromecánica y promover en su lugar al general de brigada Salvador Pardo Cruz, quien se desempeñaba como Director General de la Unión de Industria Militar. Promover al compañero Jacinto Angulo Pardo, Viceministro Primero del Ministerio de Comercio Interior, al cargo de Ministro de este organismo. Liberar al compañero Alfredo Morales Cartaya del cargo de Ministro de Trabajo y Seguridad Social y promover en su lugar a la compañera Margarita Marlene González Fernández, actual Viceministra Primera de este organismo. Designar Ministro de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente, organismo al que se traslada la atención del Polo Científico, al compañero José M. Miyar Barrueco, quien fue liberado con ese propósito de su condición de Secretario del Consejo de Estado. Designar de modo interino, sujeto a la ratificación por la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular en el próximo período ordinario de sesiones, al diputado Homero Acosta Álvarez en el cargo de Secretario del Consejo de Estado, con la función de asistir y auxiliar al Presidente, el Primer Vicepresidente, los Vicepresidentes y demás miembros del Consejo de Estado en el cumplimiento de las atribuciones definidas a este órgano en los artículos 89, 90 y 93 de la Constitución de la República. El cargo de Secretario del Consejo de Estado no constituye en sí mismo una instancia con facultades de decisión en el ámbito estatal, ni desempeña protagonismo alguno en la dirección del Estado. Liberar al compañero Carlos Lage Dávila de su cargo de Secretario del Consejo de Ministros y designar en esta responsabilidad al actual Jefe de la Secretaría del Ministro de las FAR, general de brigada José Amado Ricardo Guerra, con la función de asistir y auxiliar al Presidente del Consejo de Ministros, al Primer Vicepresidente y demás miembros de su Comité Ejecutivo en sus actividades, en correspondencia con el artículo 97 de la Constitución de la República y la legislación vigente, y por tanto este cargo no constituye legalmente una instancia con facultades de decisión en materia gubernamental, ni se le atribuye protagonismo alguno en la dirección del Gobierno. En el marco de estas decisiones el Buró Político y el Consejo de Estado ratificaron la vigencia de los pronunciamientos del compañero Raúl Castro el 24 de febrero de 2008 cuando expresó: “…La institucionalidad es uno de los pilares de la invulnerabilidad de la Revolución en el terreno político, por lo que debemos trabajar en su constante perfeccionamiento. No creernos nunca que lo que hemos hecho es perfecto.” En correspondencia con lo anterior, se convino en la necesidad de continuar estudiando la actual estructura del Gobierno con el objetivo de reducir gradualmente su envergadura y elevar su eficacia.