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Cuban shake-up claims key figures

Cuban President Raul Castro. Photo: 1 January 2009
Raul Castro officially took over from his brother a year ago

Cuban leader Raul Castro has announced a major cabinet reshuffle that includes the removal of two of the country's most prominent politicians.

State television said Cabinet Secretary Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque are among 10 officials who are stepping down.

It said the move was in line with the president's plan to improve efficiency.

It is the first big reshuffle since Mr Castro took over as president from his ailing older brother, Fidel, last year.

Correspondents say Mr Castro is putting his personal stamp on a government that still bears the mark of his brother.

Many of those dismissed were Fidel loyalists - including Mr Lage and Mr Perez Roque, who had both been seen as possible future candidates for the presidency.

Mergers

It was announced at the end of the midday news bulletin, after the weather and sports, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The changes include:

  • Gen Jose Amado Ricardo Guerra replaced Mr Lage, 57, as cabinet secretary - although he kept his job as vice-president of the Council of State. Gen Guerra worked under Raul Castro when he was defence minister
  • Mr Perez Roque, 43, was replaced as foreign minister by his deputy Bruno Rodriguez
  • Otto Rivero Torres was removed as cabinet vice president and replaced by Ramiro Valdez Menendez, who fought alongside the Castros in the 1959 revolution
  • Economy minister Jose Luis Rodriguez was replaced by internal commerce minister Marino Murillo Jorge
  • Jacinto Angulo Pardo was promoted to internal commerce minister after being Mr Jorge's deputy
  • External commerce minister Raul de la Nuez Ramirez was replaced by Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz
  • Georgina Barreiro Fajardo was replaced as finance minister by Lina Pedraza Rodriguez
  • Labour Minister Alfredo Morales Cartaya was replaced by his vice minister Margarita Marlene Gonzalez Fernandez
  • Jose Miguel Miyar Barruecos was moved from secretary of the Council of State to science and environment minister
  • Homero Acosto Alvarez was appointed secretary of the Council of State
  • Maria del Carmen Concepcion Gonzalez was made food and fishing minister, replacing Food Minister Alejandro Roca Iglesias and Fishing Minister Alfredo Lopez Valdes.

Four ministries were merged in the reshuffle including food and fishing, and external commerce and foreign investment.

The major shake-up comes at a time when Cuba and the US have been signalling for the first time in many years that they would welcome the possibility of moving towards improved ties, says the BBC's Americas editor Emilio San Pedro.

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