News on Shake up in Cuba – Perez Roque and Lage

[youtube][/youtube]Felipe Perez Roque and Carlos Lage slated as “undignified” but why?

The foreign minister and cabinet chief ousted in Cuba’s political shakeup were driven by ambition to “undignified” behavior, ex-president Fidel Castro said, adding that he was consulted on the changes.

In the biggest cabinet reshuffle in Cuba’s 50 years of communist history, President Raul Castro replaced and moved around 12 members of his government Monday, including foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque, 44, and cabinet chief Carlos Lage, 57.

“The nectar of power, for which they spared no sacrifice, stirred ambitions that drove them to an undignified role. The foreign enemy pinned many hopes on them,” wrote the president’s brother, Fidel, 82, in an article published by official media Tuesday.

Perez Roque and Lage drew most international media attention in the cabinet reshuffle, which Raul Castro, 77, said was needed for greater efficiency and to consolidate the country’s unwieldy bureaucracy.

Perez Roque — who was seen as close to Fidel, acting as his chief of staff for a decade — was removed outright from the cabinet, while Lage still retains his post as one of Cuba’s vice presidents of the Council of State.

Both long-time lieutenants in the previous administration had been seen as possible successors to Fidel Castro before the aging and ailing leader officially passed the reins of power to his brother in February 2008.

The shakeup raised opposition hopes of promised structural changes and an opening to more private enterprise, but little has actually changed since Raul first took over after his brother fell ill in July 2006.

The United States said Tuesday it was keeping an eye on Cuba’s political shakeup. “We are watching them closely,” State Department spokesman Robert Duguid said, without elaborating.

Fidel Castro said the government had instituted “healthy changes” and denied that it had “substituted ‘Fidel’s men’ for ‘Raul’s men.'”

“I never proposed those who were replaced (Perez Roque, Lage),” he said. “Almost without exception, they got into office proposed by other colleagues in the party or state leadership. I never dealt with that matter.”

“Neither … uttered a word to express any nonconformity (with the decision). It had nothing to do with lack of personal value. It was another reason,” said Castro without delving any further into the sackings.

He said the government consulted him on the cabinet appointments, even though they were not obliged to do so because “I gave up the prerogatives of power some time ago.”

Fidel added that “no injustice has been committed against certain cadres” who have been substituted.

The shuffle affects about 10 cabinet positions, including Cuba’s commerce, farming, fishing and interior ministries.

Lage, a physician and the economic brains under Fidel Castro’s last years in power, will be replaced as cabinet chief by General Jose Ricardo Guerra, who served as Raul Castro’s secretary when he was minister of the armed forces.

Perez Roque, an electrical engineer, is to be replaced by deputy foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez, the Mexican-born former Cuban ambassador to the United Nations and a key player in developing relations with Latin America and the European Union

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