Raul Castro clears out Fidel's cabinet, installs his own
Cuban President Raul Castro replaced several members of his cabinet on Monday, putting his stamp on the government a year after assuming power from his older brother Fidel.
In a sign that he is emerging from the shadow of the former president and revolutionary icon, Raul Castro, 77, fired foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque and moved cabinet chief Carlos Lage, two long-time lieutenants in the previous administration.
In making his first major cabinet shuffle since assuming power one year ago, the Cuban leader cited the need for greater efficiency and a consolidation of the country's unwieldy bureaucracy, saying the shakeup would lead to "a more compact and functional structure."
The move most notably replaces 44-year-old Perez Roque, Havana's chief diplomat since May 1999, with vice minister Bruno Rodriguez. A former journalist for Cuba's state-run press, Rodriguez was once Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations.
The Mexican-born Rodriguez had been a key player in developing relations with other Latin American countries and was involved in developing ties with the European Union, commentators said.
Perez Roque was seen as close to Fidel, acting as his chief of staff for a decade.
Lage, 57, retains his post as one of Cuba's vice presidents of the Council of State, but has been replaced by General Jose Amado Ricardo Guerra as cabinet chief.
Both Lage and Perez Roque had been seen as possible successors to Fidel Castro before the aging leader passed the reins of power to his brother.
The shuffle affects about 10 cabinet positions, including Cuba's commerce, farming, fishing and interior ministries.