Friday, September 01, 2006

News from Havana

Raul Castro, who is supposed to be in charge while his brother, Fidel, recovers from some mysterious illeness, appears to have made his first official appointment as "temporary" President of the Council of State.

According to Granma, the regime’s propaganda sheet, the Council of State has agreed to effectively sack the Minister for Information Technologies and Communications, Ignacio Gonzalez Plana, and replace him with an old-timer, General Ramiro Valdes.

The note in Granma (which you can read here, in Spanish), doesn’t reveal the reasons for moving Gonzalez Plana, saying merely that he will be “assigned other tasks”. As for Valdes, the paper says he has “ample experience” and has produced “positive results from his labour”. Without giving any further explanation or context.

What does this all mean, I hear you ask?

Analysts and Cuban watchers will have a field day over the next few hours with these latest news from Havana. Does it mean Raul is really in charge? Why bring back one of the original commanders? Hasn't Valdes been seen in the past as a likely threat to Raul? Is this some sort of leadership pact between Raul and a probable rival?

The thruth is no one outside the immediate clique really knows.

But this much we can say: Ramiro Valdes has been around for ever. He fought with the Castro brothers against the Batista government and despite some stumbles, has managed to survive and prosper under the regime - becoming one of its best-known faces internally.

One more thing: As a former head of the Ministry of the Interior, he was in charge of the Secret Police and the entire repression apparatus on the island.


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